December 10, 2019

Dr Juliette Gentle visits Brunei and Malaysia

In November, Dr Juliette Gentle, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Northern Hospital, completed two exceptional weeks travelling to Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar and Jakarta for the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Orthopaedic Travelling Fellowship. This event is held every two years between the ASEAN Orthopaedic Association and Australian Orthopaedic Associations.

Juliette and two other travelling fellows from Melbourne and Auckland visited hospitals, met local surgeons, did some sight-seeing and ate some exceptional food.

“Each of us was required to give a talk in each location. My presentation topic was, ‘Diversity in Orthopaedics,’ and the talk evolved along the way, as I met and talked to many people,” Juliette said.

In Brunei, she met both of the female orthopaedic surgeons – there are 15 orthopaedic surgeons in total in the country, for a population of 430,000.

“It was worth the visit to Brunei alone to find the positive effect that talking about the difficulties and solutions for women in orthopaedics can have. Inspiringly, there is a high proportion of female junior surgical trainees from the public hospital, RIPAS, due to a positive and supportive culture in the department. I hope that those junior doctors can navigate a career in surgery and find mentors and role models to inspire them,” she said.

In Malaysia, she had the pleasure of meeting and dining with Dr Roohi Ahmad, President-Elect of MOA (Malaysian Orthopaedic Association), who was the first female hand and microsurgeon in Malaysia, and Dr Azlina Abbas, Head of Orthopaedics at University of Malaya Medical Centre. Juliette and her colleagues toured two of the University Hospitals and were amazed by the extensive research facilities. She then moved on to Myanmar.

“In Myanmar, the biggest take-home message was how fortunate we are to have the medical system we have. Patients routinely wait 1-2 weeks for long bone or neck of femur fractures, through a combination of theatre availability, and having to source funds to buy their own implants. The challenges are great, but the orthopaedic surgeons are making great inroads into achieving improvements in patient care, and doing some exceptional surgery,” she said.

The Travelling Fellowship ended at the combined Indonesian Orthopaedic Association / ASEAN Orthopaedic Association meeting, and we presented our experiences to the AOA (Australian Orthopaedic Association) Board.

“The Fellowship involved equal portions of Hospital and Educational visits, and social and sight-seeing activities. The generosity and collegiality and knowledge sharing of our hosts was exceptional. We met so many interesting people and had discussions on a broad range of issues,” Juliette said.

Next October, the Australian Orthopaedic Association will be hosting Fellows from Brunei, Myanmar and Malaysia.

“I look forward to welcoming them to Melbourne and returning some of the warm hospitality I myself received. The experience of being a travelling fellow was one I will not forget,” she added.

Juliette in theatre in Myanmar