Med student eyes wide open after Fiji experience
Above, from L-R: Townsville Hospital rehab consultant Dr Tracey Symmons, TTH ED consultant and JCU lecturer Dr David Symmons, visiting Australian emergency physician Dr Anne Creaton and medical students, Linsey Skinner, Shama Al-Maz, Sajid Chowdhury and Lawrence Ling.
Sixth year medical student Sajid Chowdhury got more than he bargained for during a month-long medical placement to the South-Pacific island of Fiji when Category-five Cyclone Winston pummelled the island nation, giving him hands-on experience in disaster management and emergency medicine.
Mr Chowdhury was based in Fiji’s capital, Suva, along with four other sixth year students and Townsville Hospital emergency physicians as part of a regular rotation when the cyclone hit.
“We were spared from the brunt of the cyclone, but once it had passed the injured started rolling in to Suva’s Colonial War Memorial Hospital,” he said.
Mr Chowdhury said his training from The Townsville Hospital and James Cook University kicked in quickly.
“It was a very hands-on experience; I really had to apply a lot of what I had learnt during my studies,” he said.
“I was running my own resus, doing handover with other doctors, performing CPR; it was important for us all to play a part because of the sheer number of injured.”
Following the cyclone, power and resources were limited throughout the country, forcing medical personnel to go back to basics.
“We were very reliant on examination findings and our medical judgement in the absence of technology such as MRI and x-ray machines,” Mr Chowdhury said.
“We also had to make do with the resources we had on hand; morphine had to be rationed to those who needed it most and in some cases we had to fit children’s casts on adults because that’s all we had.”
Mr Chowdhury said witnessing the disaster was a sobering experience and he was grateful he was able to be there to help.
“Before this I was very interested in paediatric surgery; however, Fiji has really piqued my interest in emergency medicine. I’d love to incorporate the two areas together,” he said.
“It was a very intense experience and I know I will come out a better doctor for it.”