Changing lives

around the world

world map graphic

The Faculty of Medicine is proud to have many alumni changing lives around the world. Doctors, surgeons, psychiatrists and policymakers have taken their education and global outlook to the furthest corners of the world, making a difference through exceptional medical care and public health. Their work is not just saving lives; it is changing lives and communities. Meet our heroes and their healing hands.

Dr Wendell Rosevear

Brisbane, Queensland

Dr Wendell Rosevear’s constant and crusading voice has rung loud for LGBTIQ healthcare rights in Queensland over the past 40 years.

The UQ alumnus pioneered healthcare for gay and marginalised communities, putting a spotlight on the issue before homosexuality became legal in the state.

In an attempt to balance the scales and provide equal access to healthcare, Dr Rosevear and Dr David Orth created the Gay and Lesbian Health Service in 1990 and Stonewall Medical Centre in 1995.

Stonewall became a safe haven for those who were not only suffering, but left to die from their diseases.

“We responded to the HIV-AIDS epidemic that was happening at the time,” Dr Rosevear recalls.

“There were no identifiable community services, no treatment options and no cure for these people – we were simply providing palliative care.”

As technology and treatments advanced, Dr Rosevear found his clinic and patient base expanding to include those from all walks of life, and all sides of the tracks.

He worked in prisons between 1975 and 2005, caring for 1320 male sexual assault victims and 144 perpetrators.

“I have been given the unique opportunity to work with a broad cross-section of the community, to allow them to regain a sense of personal value.

“People who don’t value themselves turn to harmful behaviours, whether that be sexual assault, drugs, alcohol or violence.

“All of my work is very focused on providing relief for these people and it is a great honour to be trusted by people who have never trusted anybody.”

Survivors and ‘sinners’ can find non-judgemental healthcare and a real chance of recovery behind the safety of Stonewall.

“Some of the world’s most-hated people will come into the clinic to address their issues – murderers and perpetrators of child sexual abuse,” Dr Rosevear explains.

“Having these people address their issues means we can help prevent and end the cycle of abuse. It is always about trying to prevent future abuse, including self-abuse.”

Thanks to Dr Rosevear’s passionate work and fight for justice, thousands have accessed lifesaving treatments.

“UQ always inspired me to be part of the relief and change in the world,” he says.

“We were always encouraged to broaden our minds and gain new experiences.

“Even though my work is diverse, I’m thankful for the opportunity it’s given me to be a voice for marginalised groups.

It has opened up a lot of opportunities.”

He lives by his motto, ‘make love infectious’.

headshot of man smiling

Artwork by Dr Wendell Rosevear

artwork by Dr Wendell Rosevear
artwork by Dr Wendell Rosevear
husband and wife stand between group of Ugandan women

Dr Barbara Hall and her husband John with women from Uganda.

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surgeons perform operation on women
group of women line up to see doctors
doctors stand beside group of Ugandan women

Dr Barbara Hall

Uganda, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar

Performing hundreds of gynaecological surgeries across Africa and other developing countries has allowed Dr Barbara Hall to give countless women a second chance at life.

“It’s not lifesaving, but it is life-changing,” remarks Dr Hall, who has witnessed the transformative impact of even basic medical care.

“I volunteer up to four times a year, going to developing countries to operate on women with gynaecological conditions, such as uterovaginal prolapse and obstetric fistulas, and to train local surgeons.”

The surgical team, consisting of Dr Hall, Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause, will perform around 100 to 120 operations in the space of two to three weeks in Uganda.

“We only operate on women who have major uterovaginal prolapse because we simply do not have the capacity or resources to operate on more minor cases,” Dr Hall explains.

These gynaecological conditions are not only physical handicaps, they are socially isolating.

“A lot of these women have been completely ostracised by their communities and are often thought to have been cursed by witch doctors.

“Doing something like fixing their prolapse or fistula means these women can be reintegrated back into society – this is what certainly changes their lives.”

Training local doctors has become a large part of the work, in the hope each community can sustain the practice in their absence.
“We will always try to train local doctors when we can, however Uganda has a major shortage of doctors. In the Kasese area, there are only three gynaecologists for more than 80,000 women.”

Dr Hall is involved in training gynaecologists in pelvic organ prolapse surgery in Bangladesh and Nepal, and has worked with Professor Goh and Dr Krause in Cambodia and Myanmar.

Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause

Uganda, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Myanmar

Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause’s makeshift theatre rooms are often without running water and electricity, but for the many women who travel for days to see the Brisbane surgeons – they are a sign of hope.

Since 1995, the two urogynaecologists have been travelling to Africa and South-East Asia to perform obstetric fistulas, chronic fourth-degree perineal tears and severe uterovaginal prolapse surgeries.

Many of their patients have been ostracised and disabled by their conditions.

“These women have been suffering for months or even decades,” Dr Krause recalls.

“Following successful surgery, it is wonderful to see these women once again looking forward to resuming their lives, after many years of physical suffering and social isolation.”

The medical visits, pioneered by Professor Goh, have become a training opportunity for locals.

“In Myanmar and Cambodia we run surgical workshops training local gynaecologists in the specialised surgical techniques,” Professor Goh explains.

“In Myanmar, there is a 1000-bed hospital which is looking to sub-specialise in urogynaecology.

“Here, we have trained six key people to perform surgeries and provide appropriate outpatient care.

“This is about looking at the big picture so that communities can sustain this level of care independently.”

The two surgeons spend between six and eight weeks overseas each year, operating and running surgical training programs.

group of female surgeons gather around patient

Professor Judith Goh performs complex surgery with the help of local doctors and nurses.

Professor Judith Goh performs complex surgery with the help of local doctors and nurses.

two female surgeons operate on patient with bystanders

Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause operating together.

Professor Judith Goh and Dr Hannah Krause operating together.

group of women sit facing the camera and smiling

The two urogynaecologists help countless women across Africa and Asia.

The two urogynaecologists help countless women across Africa and Asia.

Dr Mark Loane

Cape York Peninsula

The impact of Dr Mark Loane’s Cape York Eye Health project is as vast and extensive as the region itself.

His team has provided optometrist and ophthalmologist services to people living in remote communities of Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula for more than 20 years.

His tireless efforts have allowed thousands of residents to access basic and advanced eye healthcare, despite the isolating tyranny of distance.

“These people are entitled to capital city levels of care, and that is what we’ve aimed to provide,” Dr Loane explains.

ophthalmologist consults with patient

Dr Mark Loane spearheaded the Cape York Eye Health project.

Dr Mark Loane spearheaded the Cape York Eye Health project.

The coordination of this project reminds the ex-Australian rugby player of playing in a football team.

“We have a team of people with different skills, all working together to achieve one goal,” the veteran of 28 international tests says.

That goal has transformed the lives of many Cape York residents who would otherwise have difficulty accessing prescription glasses and high-grade ophthalmological surgical procedures.

Governments and industry partners have invested in the project, understanding the importance of building a localised healthcare system from the ground up.

“At UQ, I was given more than just a medical degree,” Dr Loane says.

“I was given the pallette which allowed me to paint my own picture of what a career in medicine can look like.”

Thanks to his work establishing the Cape York Eye Health project, thousands can now see the brushstrokes.

group of men look at camera with bandaged eyes
“We had to earn the respect of the locals and demonstrate that we could provide a world-class level of care”
4WD truck drives along red dirt road
view from lookout over coastline

Dr Neil Wetzig

Democratic Republic of Congo

Dr Neil Wetzig voluntarily shares his surgical skills with local Congolese doctors and nurses to help improve patient outcomes at the HEAL Africa Hospital in Goma.

“I first travelled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003 and saw for myself the enormous medical needs of the population,” Dr Wetzig explains.

“I was overwhelmed by the poor surgical outcomes from rural areas and knew I could make a difference through medical and surgical education if I spent more time in the Congo.

“I saw many patients, mainly young women, maimed by poor surgery and anaesthesia simply because doctors and nurses were inexperienced.”

Dr Neil Wetzig runs AusHEAL which helps support hospitals in the developing world.

In 2015, Dr Wetzig and his team established a two-year essential and emergency surgical training program for young rural doctors.

“I now have the privilege of mentoring and training a new generation of Congolese doctors who want to lead their country out of war and provide improved healthcare for their communities.

Dr Wetzig still operates on some of the hospital’s most serious cases, like a young woman who tried to take her own life by drinking battery acid.

“It took an eight hour operation but the woman survived and has since made a magnificent recovery, returning to school and university.

“She qualified as an accountant and now works at the hospital as a valued and trusted employee.

“She is married with two children and has her third child due later this year.

“This is what successful medical care can do – it changes lives and provides hope and a future, even amidst the poverty.”

before and after photo of woman following surgery
“Their stories of inadequate conditions and resources inspire me to continue this work”
Surgeon operates on patient with two local doctors

Dr Neil Wetzig runs AusHEAL which helps support hospitals in the developing world.

Dr Neil Wetzig runs AusHEAL which helps support hospitals in the developing world.

group of doctors look at computer
husband and wife pictured in matching shirts

Dr Wetzig with his wife, Gwen founded AusHEAL together.

Dr Wetzig with his wife, Gwen founded AusHEAL together.

Dr Carolyn Russell

Mongolia and Asia

One of the most significant barriers to treatment for patients holding spiritual beliefs can be the fear of misunderstanding of their world views.

Dr Carolyn Russell has made it her life’s work to build a safe space that unites spiritual, mental and physical health for those who choose to access her services.

“I wanted to start a clinic that understood people’s Christian and spiritual world views,” Dr Russell explains.

“These people were suffering simply because they held beliefs often dismissed by other healthcare professionals.

“Appreciating the context of a person’s illness, especially spiritual and cultural understanding, is essential to promoting healthy change.”

Dr Russell’s clinic has become a welcome space for patients who are living with mental health conditions, both in Australia and abroad.

“We have expanded our teaching opportunities by training local community leaders across Asia.

“At the end of their training, locals can return to their communities and better manage mental health conditions.

“Recently, we have been invited to Mongolia to train a group of pastors who want to upskill their awareness of mental health and bring a more balanced view to what might be a psychiatric illness.

“As I’m getting older, my greatest achievement has been to sit back and watch other people take my classes and see them expanding on the framework I’ve taught them.

“Training teachers has been the real joy for me; you think you’re giving something up, but really you’re passing it on to the next generation”

mongolian prayer flags

Dr Amanuel Alemu Abajobir

Dr Amanuel Alemu Abajobir has made significant contributions to the Ethiopian public health system, improving the health outcomes of its most vulnerable populations.

He has been working with the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) to lead several major research projects, assessing maternal health and chronic kidney disease.

“Recently, I have been engaged with local health services to try and better understand the overall effects of chronic kidney disease, as it has become an emerging clinical and public health concern.”

“I want to empower the next generation of scientists to measure the impact of development interventions and translate these research findings into better public policies.”

The School of Public Health alumnus is currently working with the Africa Population Health Research Centre to develop and test new models of healthcare delivery for populations with disadvantaged maternal and child care.

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This story is featured in the Winter 2019 edition of UQMedicine Magazine. View the latest edition here. Or to listen, watch, or read more stories from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine, visit our blog, MayneStream.