2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 3

Dr Liesel Porrett

Dr Liesel Porrett

Dr Liesel Porrett, a specialist paediatric surgeon and recipient of the RACS Murray and Unity Pheils Travel Grant (2022)  has had a “busy and fulfilling year”. She used the grant funds to complete her Fellowship at the Queensland Children's Hospital, focusing on colorectal and genitourinary surgical procedures.

Driven by a passion for paediatric colorectal and urological anomalies, Dr Porrett is currently pursuing an MPhil in this field at the University of Melbourne and the Murdoch Children's Research Institute. With the help of the RACS grant, she established a surgical clinic that provides coordinated and multidisciplinary care to children with these rare and complex conditions.

“The clinic has seen nearly 200 children since its inception in May last year,” Dr Porrett says.

Despite the success of the surgical clinic, ongoing funding is a significant challenge due to its multidisciplinary nature and need for extensive allied health support and involvement from other medical specialties. However, Dr Porrett is hopeful that she can overcome these obstacles now that she has secured a permanent position as a staff specialist at the Queensland Children's Hospital, following the completion of her Fellowship.

“With my persistence and interest in the area, I think I will get there eventually. Provided we can sustain the service, it has the potential to make a significant impact. Currently, Queensland lacks access to a multidisciplinary congenital colorectal and urological service, so this is new,” she says.

The RACS grant will also enable her to attend an overseas Fellowship at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, at the end of the year. She will work with the hospital’s colorectal unit and visit the Children's Hospital Colorado, as well.

She aims to bring back the skills and ideas she gains from these experiences to benefit children in Queensland with similar conditions.

Dr Porrett, who is originally from Cairns in north Queensland, completed her medical degree from James Cook University in 2010. Knowing that surgery was her calling, she started her General Surgery training for adults in 2013 in Townsville.

“While doing a paediatric surgical post during general surgical training, I realised within two weeks that I needed to redirect my training towards Paediatric Surgery and was fortunate enough to be successful. I have never looked back since then.”

Dr Porrett, who has two children—a son born during General Surgery and a daughter during Paediatric Surgery—says, “It's a myth that women can't have a family and pursue a career in surgery. I hope to inspire junior doctors interested in surgery and show that work-life balance is attainable while raising a family.”

She also has the support of her husband, making it possible to balance family and surgical training.

Being a parent has also given her an insight into the importance of working in Paediatric Surgery. “It is a privilege to care for children and their families, and I enjoy building relationships with both the child and the parents.

“My mentors in Paediatric Surgery have had a significant impact on children's lives at various training sites, and I am passionate about this field. I consider it more of a passion than a job, and I am grateful to be a surgeon who loves going to work every day.”

Dr Porrett highly recommends the RACS grant for anyone approaching the end of their training as it expands one’s surgical experience and skills. “Personally, it has opened up many doors for me and I am immensely appreciative of the opportunities it has provided.”

Despite her demanding profession, Dr Porrett understands the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

"It's a bit cliché, but my family is the most important thing,” she says, with a laugh.

Alongside her family time, she enjoys running and swimming, recognising the positive impact these have on her overall wellbeing.