Australia’s first Indigenous Orthopaedic Registrar

13 Dec 2016
Member Story

AIDA spoke with Australia’s first Indigenous Orthopaedic Registrar, Anthony Murray. He was accepted by the Australian Orthopaedic Association (AOA) and Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS) as a Surgical Education and Training (SET) trainee in Orthopaedics, and will commence in 2017.

Anthony has worked as an unaccredited trainee in Orthopaedics since 2015 at the Central Coast, NSW. The work covers Orthopaedics and trauma including: emergency department clinical assessment and admissions; inpatient ward based care; outpatient clinics; and elective and trauma orthopaedic operations. “I act as a representative of my consultant orthopaedic surgeons, representative of patients, liaising with junior staff and hospital ancillary staff, and have a role as mentor and teacher,” said Anthony.

Prior to this, Anthony studied at James Cook University in Townsville and Cairns. He also undertook a placement in the Torres Strait Islands in 2012. He then moved to the Central Coast as a Junior Medical Officer (JMO) to complete his internship and residency.

We asked Anthony why he chose a career in orthopaedic surgery.

“Multiple reasons: the ability to return a patient to a functioning member of the community following injury; and rapid results from operative fixation and the overwhelming positive response from patients. I’m also biomechanically minded, and there is such a large exposure to patients from paediatrics to geriatrics – with such a range of operative interventions possible in hands/pelvis/spine/trauma/arthroplasty.”

“I have a keen interest in hand surgery and replant following limb loss, and hope to undertake fellowship in hands/microsurgery/replant either in Australia or abroad – with a view to return to Newcastle as a consultant to practice,” said Anthony.

Anthony said his time within NSW Health has been one of only positive experiences as an Indigenous doctor. “In the four years I have lived on the Central Coast, I have been accepted by my local community, and I have support through my workplace. At home, my family assists me in managing the rigors of a career in surgery, and the stress that comes with that. Additionally I have had association with AIDA for nearly a decade and the grouping of like-minded health professionals who have been through/are going through similar career development always assists me in my professional career.”

We asked Anthony what benefit being Indigenous brings to his work or personal life.

“It doesn’t bring me any benefit. It is who I am. I don’t see benefit or disadvantage, I simply see generations of culture, strength, resilience and family before me, and in the future to come. I’m a small blip in our people’s history. My hope is simple – for our culture to shine on in the future, and for me to make a small difference everyday,” said Anthony.

Anthony shared an interesting story with us, which enforces how important cultural sensitivity can be in the medical industry.

“I was recently contacted regarding an Indigenous patient with a traumatic elbow fracture dislocation after a fall that required a significant operation for fixation, but was refusing treatment. This lady was a local woman I knew from our Aboriginal Health Service on the coast. There was a barrier in language, explanation and understanding on the nature of the injury, what it required to fix, and what the expectations were post operatively and returning to function. Subsequently, given I was known to her, I sat with her and her family, and gave a description, used diagrams, and discussed the pro’s and con’s of an operation. This culturally sensitive approach allowed her to make an informed decision on her healthcare, and she has since had her operation and is now well on the road to returning to her baseline.”

After five years with the AOA SET training program, Anthony should Fellow in 2021. He then hopes to settle in Newcastle long term, and work as a hand/replant/orthopaedic trauma surgeon. He also has a major long-term goal to run an Indigenous outreach program for musculoskeletal injuries/orthopaedic trauma in remote communities with his colleagues, in view of enhancing functional outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Anthony also hopes to continue his teaching role to medical students/JMO’s, perhaps more formally through the University of Newcastle.

We wish him all the best in his medical journey to become a qualified Orthopaedic consultant in 2022.

13 Dec 2016