Dr Esther Apuahe: PNG’s first Neurosurgeon

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The Townsville Hospital is training the next generation of Papua New Guinean neurosurgeons under the tutelage of neurosurgery consultant Dr Eric Guazzo and the neurosurgery department.

Dr Esther Apuahe is the first female Papua New Guinean national to train as a general surgeon and will be the third doctor to hone her skills in neurosurgery at The Townsville Hospital.

Having practised medicine in Papua New Guinea for 15 years and inspiring other women to follow in her footsteps along the way, Esther said she was thrilled to be taking the opportunity to learn at The Townsville Hospital.

Esther said the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons had made her training at The Townsville Hospital possible.

“I was awarded the Pacific Island Rowan Nicks Scholarship which enabled my year-long placement at The Townsville Hospital and I’m really grateful for that.

“I was working in one of the provincial hospitals in Papua New Guinea when two local neurosurgeons couldn’t continue to provide the service creating the opportunity for me to train in neurosurgery,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful moment to be continuing this journey at The Townsville Hospital and I’m extremely grateful to be doing this under the leadership of Dr Eric Guazzo and his team.

“I’m enjoying working in a well established neurosurgery unit and I’m hoping to learn the use of more advanced equipment.

“I’m also excited to further my knowledge on neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neuroradiology and upskill my own surgical techniques.”

Esther said she hoped to use the skills learned at The Townsville Hospital to benefit her community when she returned to Papua New Guinea.

“It is so generous of Eric and his neurosurgery colleagues to impart their vast knowledge and experience to help me to do this,” she said.

“The Townsville Hospital has always supported training Papua New Guinean neurosurgical trainees and Dr Eric Guazzo has been one of the biggest contributors to neurosurgical training in PNG.”

Eric said he and his team were honoured to invest in the future of neurosurgery in Papua New Guinea.

“Every country should have access to well-trained physicians in a variety of specialities,” Eric said.

“Medicine is a continuous journey of learning and knowledge and we see sharing expertise with doctors such as Esther, who are passionate about providing critical health care specialities to their communities, as a part of our responsibility as doctors,” Eric said.

“Dr Apuahe is already a talented physician and her eagerness to further develop herself as a neurosurgery specialist is inspiring.

“As we found with Esther’s predecessors, this is a two-way learning process; we grow in our own knowledge from Esther, particularly learning from the way she manages the immense challenges of providing health care to her community.

“We are privileged to have the opportunity to play a part in developing the next generation of neurosurgery specialists in Papua New Guinea and it is incredibly rewarding.”

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