Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery with Honours 2009
“Completing my last month of a clinical fellowship at St Thomas Hospital, London, a prestigious institution and worldwide centre of excellence in the treatment of cardiac conditions and valvular heart disease. I am returning to Tasmania and will begin practice at the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) in 2020, as a fully qualified interventional and structural cardiologist. My training has been extensive and has taken 16 years since my first day as a medical student at the UTAS Sandy Bay campus. My wife, Vasheya Naidoo (BMedSci, MBBS Hons 2019) is an anaesthetist, who is also a graduate from the UTAS School of Medicine and she is also returning to the RHH to work as a staff anaesthetist.”
Where were you born and where did you grow up?
I was born in Launceston and moved to Hobart, aged eight, after my father moved jobs. I grew up on the Eastern shore with four siblings where sport and study were well balanced with family holidays to the East Coast and Tasman Peninsula. After Year 12 I had the opportunity to move to Melbourne University or stay in Tasmania to complete medical school. In hindsight, deciding to remain in Hobart and study at UTAS from a professional and personal standpoint was one the best decisions I ever made.
What inspired you to study medicine?
“As a youngster I was always fairly social and curious in the sciences. Combined with a desire to help others and a healthy dose of ambition, I was inspired to study medicine. Furthermore, a keen interest in athletics transpired to a thirst for knowledge in cardiovascular physiology.”
Do you have any distinct memories from your time studying at the University of Tasmania that you would like to share?
“Perhaps my favourite time at UTAS was the final two years performed at the Launceston Clinical School. Prior to this a lot of medical school had been hitting the books, reading academic papers with the mantra of revise, practise and rehearse. The final two clinical years really allowed for all the revision to be put into ‘real-world’ practice and translated to some wonderful clinical experiences.
Overall the friends I made from my year are literally my family. Medicine is a very social profession, and although we worked very hard, we loved to relax (and party hard) too.
Do you think there are any advantages or challenges to studying in a smaller regional city like Hobart?
“The advantages of studying in regional cities often means smaller more familiar (and perhaps friendlier) cohorts, there is less hassle commuting to class and, from my observation, the relationship between faculty and students is a lot more collegial and nurturing. Clearly from my own experience the benefit of having family around supported me through the tough exam periods.
The challenges of living in a regional city often relate to opportunity for particular fields post-graduation such as big business, or more highly specialised fields of industry. However undergraduate degrees from UTAS are highly respected across the globe and as evidenced by the far and wide network of the UTAS alumni. Studying in a regional centre certainly provides a solid platform to excel on the worldwide stage.
As a junior doctor I moved to Victoria, and now the United Kingdom to expand clinical and academic experience, but I always wanted to return to Hobart and serve the community and people of Tasmania when fully qualified as a specialist. The same is true for a lot of my close friends who have also worked and studied abroad and are now trickling back to Hobart to start clinical practice or contribute to local business and industry.”
What do you tell people about Tasmania when you are working interstate or internationally?
“I proudly pronounce we have some of the cleanest air, water and some of the oldest forests in the world, not to mention picturesque (and often empty) beaches and natural wonders. I discuss the “Tasmanian Renaissance” of ecotourism, art, agriculture and the food and beverage industry making it a popular destination for not just tourists but people from the Mainland seeking a sea change. I also emphasise the role MONA has played in facilitating this “Tasmanian Renaissance”. Most people in the UK often ask about the Tasmanian Devil or spiders, sharks and snakes, I reassure them that it’s unusual for them to be a problem, provided you respect their territory!”
What are proudest achievements to date?
First and foremost, becoming a new father has been easily been my proudest moment. We had our first son at St Thomas in London, and one of the perks of being an employee meant we got the top floor suite overlooking Westminster and Big Ben. It is a great story for him when he grows up!
From a professional standpoint performing acute angioplasty and stent insertion for heart attack victims is astonishing and hard to beat. Often patients will be admitted with an acute life-threatening event, and performing a stenting procedure in less than 30 minutes can take a person from knocking on deaths door to being clinically stable, and able to live for many more years of life, which is truly extraordinary.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“Being a fairly “type A” personality I was always eager to finish deadlines or move onto the next big project. I think if I could give advice to my younger self it would be to relax more and take a few more days off. Recently becoming a father has put all that into perspective, and certainly moving to Tasmania offers the perfect work life balance, not to mention great schools and a lovely environment to grow up. Despite loving my career and caring for patients, I doubt anybody sits on their deathbed wishing they had of spent more time at work.”
You received the Dr MG Ciezar Memorial Scholarship for 2019. We understand you are returning to Tasmania, could you please tell us a little bit about why you are coming back and what you hope to achieve and what did this scholarship enable you to do to implement this?
“Throughout cardiology training I became interested in a new procedure for the treatment of severe aortic stenosis, a potentially fatal disease of the elderly called Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI). This is a keyhole procedure performed via a small incision in the groin artery that allows for patients to have their aortic valve replaced and does not require a general anaesthetic. Clinical trials have shown TAVI has superior results for the elderly when compared to traditional surgical aortic valve replacement. It was approved by Medicare and the Australian Government in late 2017.
For 2019, I was fortunate to secure a position at St Thomas Hospital in Westminster London, a prestigious institution and a worldwide centre of excellence in TAVI. With the support of the Dr MG Ciezar Memorial Scholarship, I was able to perform a yearlong clinical post performing over 200 complex TAVI procedures, in addition to complex coronary artery interventions. Furthermore, from an academic perspective I have published two book chapters and published nine peer reviewed manuscripts in TAVI and structural heart procedures during my time in London. In November of 2019, I was awarded top clinical case for the annual International EURO PCR Valves Conference in London and served as a Faculty Member for the meeting.
I have also developed international links with colleagues from the UK, Europe and the United States, and I am hopeful this will allow for collaboration in research and clinical innovation in the future.
I am returning to Tasmania at the end of the year and will begin practice at the Royal Hobart Hospital in 2020 as an interventional and structural cardiologist. Tasmania does not have a TAVI service and patients currently have to travel to Victoria, NSW or South Australia for treatment. This is quite disruptive as some patients are frail with limited social supports. Furthermore, some patients decline treatment as an interstate trip can become too much.
With the support of the RHH Heart team and the Tasmanian Health Service, I am hopeful of being able to set up a local TAVI service. Being a home-grown doctor with international experience, I am in the perfect position to make this happen.”
Heart disease is now recognised as one of the largest causes of death in Australia, in your experience what will it take to start to start to reverse this trend?
“The 2014 National Heart Foundation epidemiological report noted Tasmania had the highest rate of cardiovascular disease of any state with the North East region at almost 30 per cent, compared to the national average of 21.5 per cent. The scourge of lifestyle related diseases causes unacceptable rates of morality in heart disease, stroke and lifestyle attributable cancers. Prevention is always better than cure, and the major risk factors for heart disease are: smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, not to mention sedentary lifestyle. In order to reverse this trend, the focus has to be on prevention and education of a healthy and active lifestyle. Cessation of tobacco smoking would decrease and prevent a huge number of cardiovascular events on a nationwide scale. Furthermore, recognising heart attack symptoms and calling an ambulance early is essential for improved patient outcomes.”
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