Oh, the places

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Meet Michael, a Masters of Public Health graduate

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Michael Buttsworth travels around Vanuatu to meet with locals and understand their healthcare system.

Michael Buttsworth travels around Vanuatu to meet with locals and understand their healthcare system.

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Michael Buttsworth turned his passion for healthcare and international development into a career at the World Health Organization in Vanuatu.

It was while working as a physiotherapist in remote and rural communities that Michael Buttsworth became consumed by an unshakeable truth.

“I was struck, as many are, by the structural barriers and challenges that prevented Aboriginal people from attaining the same level of healthcare as non-Indigenous people,” Buttsworth recalls.

“You come to realise the most effective means of improving healthcare comes from focusing on prevention rather than a cure.”

These early career experiences laid the foundation for Buttsworth to return to study at UQ, where he completed a Master of Public Health.

Textbooks closed, it wasn’t long before Buttsworth was jetting across the globe, undertaking several roles with non-government organisations (NGOs) in developing countries.

Upon accepting a role at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Vanuatu, Buttsworth headed for his biggest challenge and career highlight.

“Primarily, I am based in the Ministry of Health in the capital Port Vila, where I provide high-level support to strengthen the health system,” Buttsworth explains.

“A major component of this work is assisting in the development of the Ministry’s health information system.

“One day I can be in Port Vila in meetings, the next day I can be riding in the back of a 4WD ute, crossing rivers to deliver a workshop for nurses in a remote part of the country. I suppose this is what I love most about my job.”

He may be on ‘island-time’, but he shows no signs of slowing down.

“Working for the WHO has allowed me to tap into an enormous network of expertise, travel to global meetings, contribute to regional and global agendas, and be at the forefront of health,” Buttsworth explains.

“Equally valuable has been the opportunity to work in a country like Vanuatu and understand the real-life country context.

“To tell the truth, the country has given me as much, if not more than I could give in return.”
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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.