College

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

25 September 2020

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Describing himself as being wired for adventure and travel, and coming from a science background already, JCU pharmacy graduate Eddie Gacitua decided a mid-career switch to pharmacy just might be the perfect combination of work and lifestyle that he was looking for.

“Pharmacy is very much a portable career that you can take to any community and find work. In that respect, it’s like a trade, similar to that of an electrician, nurse or a plumber, as there are always a lot of opportunities. There’s usually a pharmacist in every community,” Eddie says.

“I first started to consider a career in pharmacy when I kept running into pharmacists on holidays in the Whitsundays and discovered that they were travelling and working all over Australia, with no problem in finding work along the way.”

As soon as he graduated, Eddie’s work adventures began, as he secured an internship at Royal Darwin Hospital. He then stayed on to do various hospital-based clinical roles as well as outreach work to Indigenous remote communities throughout the Northern Territory (NT).

Although he was also later offered positions working in locations such as Brisbane and the Gold Coast, Eddie was more interested in taking up the path less followed into regional and rural Australia.

“Throughout my studies at JCU, I got a lot of exposure to rural and remote health care, so it was already ingrained in me to take up this kind of opportunity. I really enjoy the variety of work that you get exposed to from working in more remote communities.”
JCU pharmacy graduate Eddie Gacitua

Spending ten years in the Northern Territory with its vast network of hospitals and outreach clinics, Eddie gained an in-depth overview of health services which proved invaluable for his next move into project-based roles. The first project was to research and write an integrated care framework for NT health services, linking primary care and community-based health services with hospital-based acute care services.

“The project required me to apply analytical skills and map out business processes,” he says. “I found that my training in pharmacy helped me with the skills needed for this. As a pharmacist you learn to multi-task and you are taught to drill into detail and then simultaneously you have to step back and have a look at the bigger picture.”

More complex project roles followed, including the roll-out and implementation of an ‘e-health’ electronic prescribing platform to be used throughout the Northern Territory.

“The e-health project, called eMMA (electronic Medication Management application), was one of the first implementations of its kind. It was quite an undertaking as it involved a number of hospitals and marked the start of the ‘paperless hospital’, with medications being the first application to go digital.”

Eddie on the phone
Northern Territory road
Eddie at Darwin Hospital (Left)

Making an impact

After completing these projects, Eddie had the realisation that he could make a bigger impact on health care by taking on more strategic-based roles, and so began his foray into health service management.

“My first General Manager role was for the East Arnhem Region, which included seven remote health clinics around the Gove region as well as a 30-bed hospital in Nhulunbuy, and a staff of around 300 employees.”

In this role, Eddie particularly enjoyed the challenges of coordinating the delivery of health services for remote communities.

“There is a fine balance between what can actually be offered in remote communities and what the community healthcare needs are,” Eddie says. “You have to be able to come up with some innovative solutions, build partnerships with community and private providers of health services, and not be afraid to try new things.”

This experience served him well for his next role as Health Service Manager for the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service, based in Emerald in Queensland’s central highlands region. In this role, Eddie made it his mission to implement a number of innovations.

“We introduced a mobile ophthalmology clinic, which meant that patients no longer had to travel to Rockhampton and Brisbane for serious eye issues such as cataracts,” he says. “We also set up tele-oncology services, which I had a pretty good understanding of due to my background as an oncology pharmacist from my time at the Royal Darwin Hospital.”

Entrance to the Christmas Island Hospital