2023 | Volume 24 | Issue 6
Dr Fernando Picazo-Pineda is a vascular and endovascular surgeon in the Department of Vascular Surgery at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia.
He is the recipient of the 2022 Anwar and Myrtha Girgis SIMG Grant that supports migrant, refugee and asylum seeker doctors who are experiencing financial hardship to gain the professional development required to practice surgery in Australia or Aotearoa New Zealand.
The $10,000 grant was established by Dr Anwar Girgis’ children, Mona and Peter Girgis, with the Foundation for Surgery in their late father’s honour.
Dr Picazo immigrated from Barcelona, Spain with his wife and child in 2017. Since then, the family has faced numerous challenges in their application process to stay in Australia, which caused financial pressures.
“The grant was a blessing from the sky,” Dr Picazo says. “I had already paid $40,000 in legal fees to my lawyers for my permanent residency application and I had no other money to pay for the RACS Fellowship exam.”
At the Royal Perth Hospital Dr Picazo works with a team in the multidisciplinary diabetic foot unit. His expertise includes peripheral arterial disease, endovascular procedures and open surgery of lower limbs.
“My job involves multidisciplinary work, and the main task is to improve blood supply on people who have arterial disease and on people with diabetes who are developing limb and life-threatening ulcers and gangrene. I assess patients, improve their blood supply, remove infected tissue of their feet, then refer them to podiatrists and other specialists to look after their feet as well as other health issues,” Dr Picazo says.
“I work closely with other medical specialists like endocrinologists, orthopaedic surgeons, plastic surgeons and infectious disease experts.”
Dr Picazo has also previously worked as a Fellow at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth and as a consultant vascular surgeon at the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital, the leading hospital complex in Catalonia and one of the largest in Spain.
Dr Picazo's passion for medicine is something he credits to his GP father and midwife mother. He pursued a career in surgery after completing his studies at the University of Navarra in Pamplona (the city famously known for the Running of the Bulls festival).
“Since I was kid, I would always be using my hands, spending hours making my own toy cars, doing artwork like drawing,” he says. “I always felt with surgery you can fix things here and now, it's a more immediate way to help.”
After becoming a Fellow of RACS in May, Dr Picazo is excited to be able to broaden his experience by travelling and working in remote communities.
“Without having a Fellowship, I wasn’t able to lead projects and practice independently,” he says. “I was working remotely with podiatrists in Broome, but now that I’m qualified I can go on-site and see my patients.”
However, the road to becoming a qualified surgeon as a migrant in Australia did not come easy.
“There were many moments of giving up and wanting to go back overseas,” he says.
“It's the uncertainty of not just passing exams, but permanent residency is not easy to get, that's why I think not many people come and do it. It takes a lot of time and money and investment without knowing you will get it.”
“If you want to do this you have to be very sure you want this as a migrant. I know many friends who returned to their home countries like Serbia, Spain, Sweden and Iran,” he says.
Yet, it was the great career opportunities Australia offered, the high standards of the Australian health care system, education for his children, and the beach lifestyle that motivated Dr Picazo to keep going.
“Perth is a great city with beautiful beaches and with very little traffic when you compare it to Barcelona,” he says. “For doctors the quality of life is better; it's still busy and very demanding but I guess it's very satisfying and more flexible.”
In his spare time Dr Picazo likes to spend as much time as possible with his wife Monica, and their two children.
“As a family we like to go to the bush, see animals, be in nature, and do outdoor activities. My children love it,” he says.