2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 2

RACS supports the General Surgeon Australia (GSA) Rural Coach Provincial Surgeons of Australia (PSA) Registration Grant, which provides financial assistance to Trainees, SIMGs and junior doctors who attend the PSA conference. The eligibility criteria and recipients are decided by GSA. RACS notifies the grant recipients, collects the reports, and the grant money is paid retrospectively. Each grant is $660 in value.

The 58th PSA took place in Margaret River, Western Australia late 2023.

Meet the Rural Coach PSA Registration Grant 2023 recipients.

Dr Dhanushke Thilan

Dr Dhanushke Thilan Fernando, Western Australia

Having spent the majority of the year in the red dirt of the Goldfields, the water and sand of Margaret River was a welcome change of scenery. I came to the PSA meeting excited to present my research, meet friends and make new connections.

The academic program was stimulating and challenging. Listening to the fantastic work done by provincial surgeons at their respective centres was inspiring and thought provoking. It made us reflect on the work done at our own centres, and areas for future opportunity and gaps in skills and knowledge. From Dr Weber’s presentation on common bile duct exploration to Dr Fry’s breakfast presentation on the great work being done with novel wound care techniques, I learned something at every session. There were ample opportunities for delegates at all levels to contribute and get involved. I enjoyed presenting my research and learning about the great work that others are doing. I returned from the conference feeling inspired and more informed—sharing ideas to the handover room on my first day back in Kalgoorlie. Additionally, the PSA gave me ideas regarding opportunities to look for as I approach training—connecting me with colleagues as the journey progresses.


Dr Jenna Reeves

Dr Jenna Reeves, Northern Territory

As a current GSET Trainee, I am often asked, “What type of general surgery do you want to do when you finish?” “Beach side general surgery,” I respond.

Having grown up in Broome, Western Australia and spending most of my unaccredited years in Lismore, New South Wales, rural surgery has always been a big interest of mine. I found my first PSA conference inspiring, informative and enjoyable.

The academic program covered many topics important to the rural community and were delivered by esteemed local and international speakers. I enjoyed the focus on the unique challenges and opportunities faced by rural surgeons and learning about the successes of how quality care is being delivered to remote communities.

The conference also provided ample opportunity for networking with its great social calendar (and being in wine country how can you not join in!) and relaxed atmosphere. Meeting like-minded, down to earth, friendly surgeons and reconnecting with previous mentors in a relaxed and fun environment was definitely a highlight.


Dr Alex Britcliffe

Dr Alex Britcliffe, New South Wales

I’m a surgical registrar from Northern Tasmania, currently working in Lismore, New South Wales.

Alongside many interesting presentations at the PSA, it was heartwarming to spend time with specialists in my field and hear them talk of their passion for rural and regional surgery. It was inspiring to listen to speakers such as Dr Mark Smith and Dr Peter Miles discuss how they carved out their surgical careers in regional Australia and Canada, and the privileges and opportunities it has afforded them. I also enjoyed listening to the poster presentations of my registrar colleagues, in particular Dr Marcus Ong’s experiences with his introduction of Magseed in South-Western Western Australia.

The cherry on top was the fantastic social program, which we all enjoyed.


Dr Megge Beecroft

Dr Megge Beecroft, Western Australia

The annual PSA is one of my favourite surgical conferences.

As a country girl, who moved away from home to attend university what feels like an age ago, planning a career in rural surgery gets harder, not easier with time. Training pathways get longer, singles turn to families and so much of life happens right around you in the 10-15 years of medical school, pre-vocational and training required to get to FRACS. During this time, while our partners get jobs of their choice, and kids hit school, we find that training in tertiary hospitals is exciting. As Trainees we have the opportunity to work with inspiring people, see cutting edge procedures, and be involved in transformative research.

There is a relative vacuum of rural training pathways, exposure to generalist skills and role modelling within current training programs. I have always found the PSA conference to be great, but this one was a timely infusion of inspiring stories of people who have made a big impact in their communities, development of new models of surgical service delivery that suits the needs of communities and multi skilled clinicians, and of new opportunities for academic and technological excellence from all over Australia.

In the lead up to exams—as we prepare to ask another move of our families in search of more training—this was a valuable opportunity to reconnect with mentors, role models, and Trainees who share a passion for rural health and to fill the tank for the next phase with the promise that one day we will make it home and the great things that can be done once we get there.


Dr Nestor Sabat

Dr Nestor Sabat, Queensland

Each year that I have attended the PSA, it has been gathering of the most inspiring, innovative, and passionate faculty in rural and remote Australia to celebrate the achievements and novel research in rural General Surgery, and this time was no different.

From the first day this intimate conference showcased a range of topics by experienced speakers that opened my eyes to the concept of dual-surgeon-operating and revealed an innovative piece of technology in breast surgery. Between these fascinating sessions, the discussion continued relentlessly until we found ourselves at the back of a bus heading to a trivia night. The trivia night was a particularly memorable bonding experience as a ruthless but friendly competition which ravaged the minds of surgeons trying to remember the country of birth of some of the most common surgical instruments! The warm friendships old and new, the magic of this magnificent region, and the beauty of rural general surgery found at the heart of this year's PSA were treasures I take back with me as I await next year’s PSA adventures!


Dr Cherry Talavera

Dr Cherry Talavera, GSET 1 2023, Queensland

The 2023 PSA ASC reinforced the unique challenges associated with rural surgery in Australia and explored innovative solutions to address them. One standout moment was Dr. Peter Miles' insightful presentation, which shed light on the Canadian approach to rural surgical training. His perspective provided valuable insights that could be applied to the Australian context, potentially revolutionising the way we train surgical professionals for rural practice. The emphasis on extended skills, particularly regarding caesarean sections for rural surgical Trainees, was a highlight. This expansion of expertise is essential in rural areas where access to specialised healthcare can be limited.

The most touching aspect of the conference was the focus on palliative care and the collaborative efforts of surgical, palliative care, and paramedic teams to fulfill the last wishes of a young patient at the end of their life’s journey. This heartwarming example showcased the dedication and compassion of healthcare professionals in regional settings. Overall, the conference provided a platform for knowledge exchange and inspired hope for the future of rural surgery in Australia. It was a testament to the commitment and innovation of those working to overcome the unique challenges faced in regional healthcare.


Dr Zhi Sia

Dr Zhi Sia, New South Wales

I am very grateful for the opportunity, to have completed a poster and oral presentation at the PSA. Credit to the organiser and convenor Dr Jacinta Cover for allowing my colleagues and me to participate in this wonderful event.

I have been interested in rural surgery since I was an intern in Lismore Base Hospital in 2018 and was greatly inspired by the surgeons whom I have worked with, particularly Dr Austin Curtin, Dr Sue Velovski, Dr Sally Butchers, Dr Gratian Punch and many more. I learned so much about rural surgery during this conference and noticed the importance of rural surgeons on how they have consistently worked collaboratively with the local community and providing their services selflessly. An inspiring story that I heard from one of the speakers was how the diversified culture come into medicine and surgery, and how they have been able to work as a team. It has not been easy, and people have been working together hard with things improving over time.


Dr Phillipa Read

Dr Phillipa Read, Western Australia

What a privilege it was to attend the PSA. The academic program highlighted the ‘can-do’ approach of the rural surgeon, and it was encouraging to see the collaborative efforts of rural surgeons, medics, and allied health in the provision multidisciplinary care in rural and remote communities. I particularly enjoyed the Jim Pryor Begonia Prize session—an entertaining session which gave opportunity for my colleagues to demonstrate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the rural surgeon. Additionally, Dr. Megge Beacroft’s presentation of her work on burnout was of particular interest and provided insight into what remains an increasingly important rural workforce issue.  I thank the PSA committee and the Rural Coach program and look forward to the PSA 2024!


Dr Jessica Paynter

Dr Jessica Paynter, Victoria

I travelled from Bendigo, Victoria to attend the PSA conference and was fortunate to receive the rural coach grant.

From the academic side I enjoyed listening to international guest speaker, Dr Peter Miles, and hearing the similarities between rural Australia and rural Canada. I really enjoyed the ’How I do It – Technical Skills session,’ and the particular nuances to achieving this in a rural location. The social program was fantastic and it was the people I met at the PSA conference that made it such a great experience. Being able to connect with other surgical registrars working across rural Australia provides an opportunity for reflection, networking and sharing of ideas. Thanks to the Rural Surgical Section for supporting my attendance, and thanks to Dr Jacinta Cover for organising such a fantastic conference.


Dr Natasha Behrendorff

Dr Natasha Behrendorff, Western Australia

The PSA 2023 meeting was a remarkable event, showcasing innovative approaches in the field of rural surgery. Among the many highlights, three presentations resonated with me due to their relevance and impact.

Dr. Megge Beacroft's talk on junior doctor burnout was a standout. It shed light on an issue that is becoming increasingly important as the time spent before securing a training position. Dr. Beacroft used the AMAWA Workforce surveys to clarify the extent and pinpoint the causes of burnout, including provide realistic and practical solutions to try and fix this occupational and wellbeing issue.

Another notable presentation was about how Busselton Hospital achieved the lowest in-hospital stay times following joint replacement surgery in Australia. This accomplishment is a testament to the efficiency and effectiveness of their healthcare protocols. This presentation was useful as it an approach that could be replicated to enhance patient outcomes in other health systems.

Lastly, the virtual ICU service provided by metropolitan hospitals like Fiona Stanley to rural Western Australian hospitals is a groundbreaking initiative. This service bridges a gap in intensive care access between urban and rural areas. The use of technology in facilitating this service was impressive, demonstrating a significant advancement in telemedicine. Overall, these presentations were enlightening, showcasing innovative approaches and solutions to some of the pressing challenges in the surgical field. They not only provided valuable learning but also inspired ideas for implementation in our practices.


Dr Nevin Chen

Dr Nevin Chen, Victoria

As a previous delegate, I was looking forward to PSA 2023 and the conference was a fantastic venue for Trainees, doctors and surgeons to gather and discuss the challenges, innovations and novel ideas in rural general surgery.

During the scientific program, there were varied perspectives and insights from rural surgeons across the country. I enjoyed the talks from Dr Peter Miles, and it was interesting to hear how the challenges and accomplishments that rural surgeons encounter can be similar across the globe. I will definitely be taking a few ideas back with me and employ it in my everyday practice.

Thank you, PSA committee, for the opportunity to present my research at your forum. I was impressed by the quality of the presentations and posters by my fellow delegates. PSA ASC is always enjoyable and educational and I recommend this conference to anyone interested in surgery.


Dr Pranav Divakaran

Dr Pranav Divakaran, Victoria

The PSA conference gave me the opportunity to travel to a part of the world I have never been to before and exposed me to a community of surgeons who inspire a practice of community led service and consistent skill development.

I presented a regional based study that provided me with the opportunity to be part of a robust discussion surrounding the issue of salvaging acute surgical complications. I attended the conference with my mentors from Ballarat Hospital and reconnected with my mentors from Queensland.

This conference is a valuable opportunity for surgical aspirants, Trainees and consultants to meet, form connections, and be part of a community of surgeons who maintain a robust connection despite the distance that separates the health services. The social events were an excellent opportunity to mingle and bond with other mentors and identify fellow job opportunities for the upcoming years. Thank you for the opportunity to attend!