Medical elective, Thursday Island, QLD | Neurosurgery, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Publication date
Wednesday, 5 Jun 2019

White, sandy beaches, palm trees, coconuts and turtles. These were the constants of my elective block placements.

When it came to my elective I wanted to experience something both culturally and geographically distant from the inland, public servant drenched hills of Ngunawal country.

So I took to the skies and headed north, as far north as one can go in Australia before crossing international borders, to the tranquil, slow paced Torres Strait.

This was still not enough humidity, sand, and sun for me so I continued my electives journey on to the tropical paradise of Sri Lanka where the weather is a balmy 27 every day, the food is phenomenal and the culture is decadent.

Thursday Island, QLD

I have been fortunate enough over the past three years to have the opportunity to visit the Torres Strait every year on my John Flynn Placement and so have begun to build a relationship with the community and the healthcare staff on Thursday Island.

My experiences during my electives block in the Torres Strait did not disappoint.

I continued to be challenged by the high rates of diabetes, chronic kidney disease and heart failure suffered by the Torres people and saw first hand the effects of colonisation, and centuries of systemic racism on biopsychosocial well being.

I was lucky enough to accompany some of the local health care team to a number of the islands of the Torres Strait and experienced a completely different model of health care involving far more ferry trips and helicopter rides than I have seen in Canberra.

The Torres Strait Islander culture is very strong and vibrant and the people of the Torres are incredibly proud of their home. I felt it was a great privilege to be allowed to experience life in the Torres and to be welcomed into the health care team with open arms.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

My elective in Sri Lanka was based in Colombo at the Asiri Central Hospital in the neurosurgical department under Dr Sunil Perera. Dr Perera is an extremely busy surgeon operating out of Colombo, the UK and Singapore and is highly respected and experienced in the field so I was very fortunate to get to learn from him.

My time at the hospital involved ward rounds, consults, observing neurosurgeries and seeing patients in the neurosurgical ICU. It was fascinating seeing the precision and expertise that is involved in neurosurgery.

I was able to observe brain tumour removals, haemorrhagic stroke clot clean outs, ventriculoperitoneal shunt placements and vertebral discectomies to name just a few. All of this in the context of the Sri Lankan culture and health care system left for a very rewarding and educational elective placement.

When I wasn’t at the hospital I was visiting some of the wonderous sites that Sri Lanka has to offer.

Kandy, the old capitol city with its centuries old forts, temples and architecture.

Sigiriya, an old fort built atop a cliff in the middle of the tropical jungle with monkeys swinging through the trees and elephants wandering about its base.

Galle, on old fort town on the south west coast where the ocean water is temperate and sea turtle sanctuaries a’ plenty.

To top all of this off the culinary offer of Sri Lanka was one of the best I have ever experienced. My tastebuds were constantly excited as every new dish I tried made me want to go back for more.

Overall my time in Sri Lanka was enriching and rewarding. I would highly recommend Sri Lanka to anyone for their elective placement and would urge that it not be overlooked.