2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 3

Dr Norah Ferrah

Dr Noah Ferrah

In 2022 Dr Noha Ferrah, a Trainee general surgeon, was awarded the MAIC-RACS Trauma Research Scholarship, which provided her with a “fantastic opportunity to take time off clinical work in order to focus on conducting good research”.

With the scholarship, Dr Ferrah was able to carry out a successful project that is part of her PhD. The project, a research study on Management and Models of Care of Older Trauma Patients, aimed to improve trauma care for people in regional and rural Australia.

As previous studies showed worse outcomes for older trauma patients in rural areas, were attributable to challenges in rural medicine, the study aimed to determine why this was the case, and how patient outcomes could be improved. Dr Ferrah and her team conducted in-depth interviews of 15 medical doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, and paramedics.“

We found a lot of rich and interesting ideas, but the most interesting findings were the concrete and pertinent recommendations for change proposed by the participants,” Dr Ferrah says.

Among the recommendations were tailored education programs, a dedicated case coordinator for all trauma cases across the state, and a centralised system to streamline patient management from small rural centres to large, specialised centres in the city.

“What we would like to do from here—based on this study—is to weigh these recommendations against the current evidence in the literature and see if they can be tested in future studies.”Reflecting on the impact of the study, Dr Ferrah says, "On another level, this study provided healthcare professionals in rural and remote areas, with a rare opportunity to share their experiences and participate in research. Often, research is conducted in larger urban centres, making this opportunity valuable and unique for our research team.”

Dr Ferrah appreciates the scholarship as it allowed her to gain skills in qualitative research and conducting in-depth interviews. “It gave me the opportunity and the financial support to engage in research that is quite time-consuming. But the upside is, we got very rich and granular information on this topic, which is not easy to obtain through the usual quantitative research typically conducted in surgery.” The publication of the research study is expected within the next few months.

Born in Paris, Dr Ferrah came to Australia as an adult and completed her post-graduate medicine at the University of Melbourne.

As a medical student, she found surgery to be an interesting field but not easily accessible. Her interest was later sparked during her first rotation as an intern at the Alfred Hospital where she was fortunate to have a great mentor.

"She was professional and assertive yet kind. These leadership qualities inspired me and changed my perception of surgery to make it more attractive and accessible,” Dr Ferrah says.
She is hoping to sub-specialise in Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB). “Again, the choice was inspired by two mentors I worked with in Hobart for several years. However, I am drawn to General Surgery as a whole because of its broad scope and diversity.”

Although there is still some disparity in women's representation in surgery, Dr Ferrah says there is a noticeable change happening, especially in General Surgery.
She emphasises the importance of scholarships like the MAIC-RACS Trauma Research Scholarship, especially for those who want to do research but don't have the funds or support.

“There are various scholarship options available that could match any project. Having the right scholarship also helped in opening doors and forming relationships that facilitated the project's execution. Despite not knowing anyone in Queensland, receiving the scholarship allowed me to reach out to the Jamieson Trauma Institute in Brisbane, which was instrumental in promoting the project across the state and recruiting patients.

”With only three months to go before she sits for her Fellowship exam to complete her training in General Surgery, Dr Ferrah is eager to finish and return to her passions of reading and writing.