#57 Member profile: Dr Amy Touzell

Dr Amy Touzell

4 March 2019

We are celebrating the achievements of our female members to mark International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March. This year’s theme is ‘Better the balance, better the world’ and AMA Victoria strongly supports a more gender-balanced medical profession. In our International Women’s Day profile series, we’re introducing you to some of our dedicated current and future medical leaders.

1.  What is your current role in medicine?

  1. Orthopaedic surgeon at Frankston public hospital, Frankston Private Hospital and Beleura Private Hospital
  2. Adjunct senior lecturer – Monash University
  3. RACS Victorian Branch Committee Member
  4. ASSET instructor

2.  Why did you choose to study medicine?

I had an excellent career counsellor in year 12 who (quite sensibly) suggested my previously chosen career path of accounting and actuarial studies probably was not for me! She suggested I apply for medicine and I was asked to interview in Newcastle, so I went up for a weekend. I was living in Melbourne at the time and I fell in love with the beach, the lifestyle and culture of Newcastle. To be honest, it was more the town of Newcastle rather than the medical degree that steered me in that direction. It was the only place that offered me a first-round offer to study medicine, so off I went!  

3.  What is the best part about your work?

The variability. As an orthopaedic surgeon with an interest in foot and ankle and trauma, I see everyone from children with curly toes to elderly patients with severe osteoporotic fractures to middle-aged diabetics with charcot deformities. Every case and weekend on-call is different and I love the variety. 

I also like the opportunity to teach and develop trainees. Working in a combination of public and private practice allows me to teach registrars, residents and medical students but also learn new techniques and ideas from the registrars as well. 

I also enjoy the comradery. I have been lucky to work in a very collegiate department with lots of support, and was invited to join a medium-sized private practice group, which as a junior consultant I found incredibly helpful. I also had a great study group and we studied right through from our first interview to get onto the surgical training program, right up to the fellowship exam. I still ask them for advice now, both with clinical and non-clinical situations. 

4.  What is the hardest part about your work?

Learning how to run a small business has been really challenging. I have found there is little preparation for private practice in the training program and most of what I learned was from making my own mistakes! Every surgeon sets up private practice a little differently and what worked for someone else was not necessarily right for me. I also find financially consenting patients a bit awkward, especially if patients ask for a discount or to be bulk-billed during the consultation. I’m getting better at valuing myself but it’s still difficult. 

Dealing with surgical complications is also tough, both for the patient and myself. I find I worry about complications at home as well as at work. I am slowly improving by leaving work stressors at work rather than taking them home with me, but this is definitely a work in progress. 

5.  Do you have any advice for others pursuing a career in medicine?

Medicine is a long road – if someone had told me in year 12 that I would have still been studying 15 years later, I probably would have swapped back to accounting! I do think there are more junior doctors coming through now, resulting in shift-work rostering, increased competitiveness for training program positions and, in my opinion, more burnout. I would advise to keep options open and have a back-up plan – not being selected for your training program of choice does not make you a failure and may open up other opportunities in medicine instead.

6.  If you were Health Minister for a day, what changes would you make to the health system?

I think improving regulation for non-FRACS doctors in private hospitals is important. I do feel that surgical podiatrists are operating in an unregulated environment at the moment and I feel that we should encourage a more robust peer review process, both from surgeons and podiatrists. I also feel this area should be more transparent – it is difficult for the general public to understand the difference between a surgical podiatrist and fully-trained orthopaedic surgeon. I understand the Australian Orthopaedic Association and the Foot and Ankle Society are delicately addressing this as well and am watching this space with interest.

I would also increase the amount of paternity leave currently offered to junior doctors – in some states it is as little as five days. The culture of medicine is changing and I feel that more junior doctors want to prioritise family life as well as pursue a career in medicine. Equalising paternity and maternity leave entitlements helps foster diversity in medicine and promotes the involvement of both parents when raising children.

7.  What do you enjoy doing away from medicine?

I’ve always been physically active and try to keep this up as much as possible. I’ve just got into Crossfit and love the power-lifting side (less so the gymnastics given that at 75kg I’m not exactly built for it…!).  I’m also very lucky to be able to work a four-day week most weeks, and have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, so sometimes it’s nice to be ‘Ollie and Lachie’s Mum’ rather than Dr Touzell for a day.

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