College of Medicine and Dentistry JCU junior doctor recognised

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JCU junior doctor recognised

Fri, 26 Nov 2021
Categories: Students.

Dr Sam Smith

James Cook University medicine graduate Dr Samuel Smith’s dedication as an educator and advocate have earned him a Queensland Junior Doctor of the Year award.

Dr Smith, a Resident Medical Officer at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH), also collected the Queensland RACS Paper Prize last weekend, the second time he has won the award. He was Queensland’s lead nominee for 2021 Junior Doctor of the Year at the recent Australia and New Zealand Confederation of Postgraduate Medical Education Council (CPMEC) Awards. The award recognises his significant contribution to teaching and learning as a prevocational trainee in the workplace.

Rural terms: prepared for anything

Dr Smith, who grew up in Townsville and graduated from JCU in 2019, recently spent 10 weeks on a rural term in Roma and Mitchell covering general practice and hospital emergency departments. His goal is to specialise in intensive care medicine.

“In Mitchell, I was only one of two doctors in the town at PGY2 (postgraduate year 2). It was challenging at times, managing everything from seizures to paediatric trauma by myself at five in the morning, but both RBWH and my six years at JCU, as well as the great teams at Roma, Mitchell and Retrieval Services Queensland, helped a lot.

“I don’t think any medical degree in the country could have prepared me for the type of medicine I want to practise as well as JCU did. I had rural placements in Ayr, Longreach and Babinda, as well as at Townsville University Hospital in both generalist and subspecialist medicine. I was glad to have done rural terms at similar sized hospitals to Roma and Mitchell as it prepared me for the lack of resources you can face, and the inventive solutions you sometimes need.

“Going rural was a great experience. For someone interested in critical care like myself, the opportunity to do all of these procedures and make your own management plans felt really good after being in such a big hospital for so long.”

Improvements for patients

Dr Smith has just completed his dual Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, publishing 12 peer-reviewed articles. His research was recognised with a Philip Walker Vascular Surgery Research Scholarship, as well as the Peter Moran Award for anaesthetic research and two Queensland RACS Papers Prizes.

His 2021 Queensland RACS Papers Prize win continues an impressive record for JCU honours researchers under Professor Jonathan Golledge – Dr Smith also won the award in 2018, Dr Evan Matthews in 2017, Dr Dylan Morris in 2015. JCU Research Fellow Dr Tejas Singh was a finalist for the Neville Davis Prize at the same event this year.

Dr Smith’s honours work focused on improving the management of patients with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a common condition affecting older adults caused by blockages in the arteries of the legs. Individuals with PAD experience severe exertional pain, which limits their physical activity and reduces quality of life. In the absence of effective medications for PAD, patients often undergo surgery to restore blood supply to the muscles of the leg. Surgery is costly, and many individuals require repeated operations during their lifetime.

His work identified factors that increased the risk of patients requiring readmission immediately after surgery. He used data from local patients to assess the long-term benefits of PAD surgery for patients, and quantify the cost-effectiveness of these interventions.

JCU graduate Dr Dam Dmith presenting the winning paper at the RACS 2021 Queensland Conference

JCU graduate Dr Sam Smith presenting the winning paper at the RACS 2021 Queensland Conference

‘I always felt like I was heard’

Dr Smith is a member of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine’s Respectful Workplaces Committee, advocating for the workplace right for respect for clinicians in rural hospitals across Australia.

He describes the CPMEC Junior Doctor of the Year nomination for Queensland as a lovely surprise.

“I think this really stems from not from any amazing thing I do like some of the other fantastic nominees, but just a persistence in speaking up when things don’t seem right,” he says. “Often we as juniors accept things as the way they are and always will be, from juniors’ welfare or working long hours, to clinical processes that we know could be done better but aren’t. It can be difficult sometimes to speak up.

“Sometimes it just takes someone stubbornly pointing out that something is inefficient or dangerous to actually make a change. Credit to the staff at JCU College of Medicine and Dentistry, I always felt like I was heard and this mindset has continued into my professional life. I believe very strongly in speaking up when something could be made better and although health care seems like a monolith, everyone really does have potential to make change.

“Again, this was a mindset honed at JCU where I sat as the student rep on a number of committees, irritatingly objecting when things weren’t right. I sit on a few committees at RBWH and am involved in research, medical education and mentoring. I even do the medicine interviews for UQ and JCU – it’s crazy to think that was me being interviewed only eight years ago.

“All in all, I think that whilst I have so far to go in my medical journey, going to JCU I couldn’t have asked for a better foundation. I think it has shaped the way I will practise for years to come, and I’ll always enjoy the community of friends and colleagues it gave me.”

Read more about Dr Smith’s nomination as CPMEC Junior Doctor of the Year.