Dr Andrew Higgins - The long road to success
- Future Students
- Current Students
- Research and Teaching
- Partners and Community
- About JCU
- Celebrating 50 Years
- Anton Breinl Research Centre
- Agriculture Technology and Adoption Centre
- Living on Campus
- Advanced Prawn Breeding Research Hub
- Advanced Analytical Centre
- Applying to JCU
- Australian/NZ Students
- Australian Lions Stinger Research
- Boating and Diving
- Australian Tropical Herbarium
- Careers at JCU
- Association of Australian University Secretaries
- Careers and Employability
- Australian Quantum & Classical Transport Physics Group
- Centre for Tropical Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology
- College of Business, Law and Governance
- College of Healthcare Sciences
College of Medicine and Dentistry
- News & Stories
- Get Involved
- Short Courses & Professional Development
- Clinical Electives (non-JCU students)
- Making Rural Health Matter
- JCU GP Training
- Northern Queensland Regional Training Hubs
- Contact us
- College of Science and Engineering
- COVID-19 Advice
- Centre for Disaster Solutions
- Cyclone Testing Station
- The Centre for Disaster Studies
- Daintree Rainforest Observatory
- Diploma of Higher Education
- Discover Nature at JCU
- Division of Research and Innovation
- Division of Tropical Environments and Societies
- Division of Tropical Health and Medicine
- Staff Intranet
- Economic Geology Research Centre
- Elite Athletes
- JCU Events
- Financial and Business Services Office
- Foundation for Australian Literary Studies
- Gender Equity Action and Research
- Give to JCU
- Information for JCU Cairns Graduates
- Graduate Research School
- JCU Ideas Lab
- Indigenous Education and Research Centre
- Indigenous Legal Needs Project
- IT Services
- International Schools
- International Students
- JCU College
- JCU Connect
- JCU Contact Information
- JCU Eduquarium
- JCU Global Experience
- JCU Motorsports
- JCU Prizes
- JCU Sport
- JCU Turtle Health Research
- Language and Culture Research Centre
- Marine Geophysics Laboratory
- New students
- Off-Campus Students
- Office of the Provost
- Office of the Vice Chancellor and President
- Virtual Open Day
- Outstanding Alumni Awards
- Parents and Partners
- Pathways to university
- Planning and Performance
- Planning for your future
- Professional Experience Placement
- Queensland Research Centre for Peripheral Vascular Disease
- Rapid Assessment Unit
- Researcher Development Portal
- Safety and Wellbeing
- Scholarships @ JCU
- State of the Tropics
- Strategic Procure to Pay
- Student Equity and Wellbeing
- Student profiles
- TQ Maths Hub
- Unicare Centre and Unicampus Kids
- VAVS Home
- Work Health and Safety
- WHOCC for Vector-borne & NTDs
- Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine
For most the prospect of fifteen years of study and training to achieve their career goal may appear daunting, but for maxillofacial surgeon, Andrew Higgins, the hard slog has been well worth it.
The Queensland based surgeon was working as a junior doctor in Brisbane when a rotation with the maxillofacial surgery team confirmed his love of the specialty. But the path to his goal was never going to be easy.
"To be accepted to train for the specialty you have to have both a medical and dentistry degree. You also need to have worked as a junior doctor for a year and as a surgical resident medical officer for a year. Only then can you apply for the program."
Determined to pursue a career in maxillofacial surgery, Dr Higgins enrolled in the newly established Dentistry program at James Cook University. While it was hard to return to full time study after several years working as a doctor, he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"I met some great people, many of whom are still close friends today. Clinically my final year was very enjoyable, and working part time as a maxillofacial principle house officer at the Townsville Hospital was a great experience."
"Without the opportunity to study dentistry at JCU I wouldn't have been able to pursue this career path."
It wasn't just readjusting to student life that posed a challenge. Dr Higgins also continued to practice as a doctor while completing the course.
And he admits the juggle wasn't always easy.
"It was difficult. I would often work until two AM doing home visit services after having been at University all day."
Despite the challenges, Dr Higgins successfully completed the degree and was accepted into a place in the surgical training program.
"Surgical training is at times very stressful, especially around exams. I haven't quite experienced anything like the stress or pressure to pass the final exam. Studying 30 hours a week while working a busy full-time surgical job can be challenging," he said.
"Passing the final exam is my biggest achievement thus far. There have been many sacrifices throughout training and plenty of missed occasions with family and friends.
"The most difficult thing to learn in training is how to operate independently and problem solve during an operation when there is a great deal of pressure."
Despite the challenges it's a career path he'd certainly recommend to those with a passion for the field.
"It is an enjoyable and rewarding career, but it's a long road that requires many hours of hard work and study. As long as they're aware of that then I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested."
"It is always enjoyable to fix or solve any problem. If a patient has an injury or disease that you can fix, then that is extremely satisfying and rewarding."
Dr Higgins said he's also benefited from a great support team.
"I think if you have a close support network of family and friends then most things in life are much easier. That is certainly the case for applying and training in oral and maxillofacial surgery."
Having now achieved his goal, Dr Higgins plans to go to Oxford University to take up a Fellowship in head and neck reconstructive surgery, before returning to work in Brisbane.