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Hobart doctor works in Sudan -

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Hobart doctor works in Sudan

The World Today - Tuesday, 3 February , 2009 12:46:00

Reporter: Felicity Ogilvie

BRENDAN TREMBATH: When a young doctor left for the war-torn nation of Sudan he was looking for a
challenge. Twenty-nine-year-old Stratos Roussos from Tasmania got what he wanted.

Through the organisation Doctors without Borders, he was placed in charge of paediatrics at a
hospital in the southern Sudanese town of Aweil.

He's just returned home from a seven-month stint in Sudan.

Felicity Ogilvie caught up with him in Hobart.

STRATOS ROUSSOS: I guess from a professional point of view, the diseases that we saw were
completely different to things we'd see in Tasmania. And really a lot of diseases were preventable.
So, for example I had never seen a case of cholera before I had arrived in Africa and by the time I
left I had treated several hundred patients with cholera, diseases like tetanus, we saw a lot of
babies with neo-natal tetanus. Maybe two or three admissions of babies with neo-natal tetanus,
which obviously, no matter how much experience you have here, you'd never seen it. And obviously as
you treat children more and more you become a bit more confident and you learn how to deal with
these diseases. Same with malaria, the complications of malaria.

So it was a real different sub-type of pathology that we were seeing from a medical point of view.
I learnt how to deal with a minimum of resources, not having the luxury of I guess of ordering lots
of investigations and tests and really relying on my skills a lot more. Where I guess here you do
have several levels in terms of hierarchy with consultants and referral systems and those kind of
things. Where really we had to sort of rely on our skills a lot.

FELICITY OGILVIE: When you're a doctor seeing such distressing situations with the babies born with
tetanus and you're seeing children that are just like little skeletons, how do you mentally cope
with that?

STRATOS ROUSSOS: I think it's more of a retrospective thing to deal with. At the time it was
obviously so busy, we were working quite long hours. So there was no real time to reflect on that
aspect. Obviously we saw a lot of death and I think that was more on the downtime when we had a
chance to just sort of I guess cool our heals for a bit and that was the time where it was
difficult, where we had a bit of time to step back and think about this.

But I guess one way I was able to deal with it was to also see the upside of what we're doing and
how many lives we were saving. Obviously, you know, death is difficult and certainly in those
circumstances but sometimes it's a reality and children sometimes presented too late or there was
nothing we could do and yeah, even though it was quite sad, you had to sort of put into perspective
of what we were doing.

FELICITY OGILVIE: What do you see as the future for medical care in countries such as Sudan?

STRATOS ROUSSOS: It's really dependant on the lack of conflict. If there's no more sort of
outbreaks of wars, it's really dependant on that because as long as there's war, there's still
going to be a movement of people. People aren't going to be willing to plant crops and stay in one
area and obviously it's just going to be a huge disruption and health, money going into health is
going to be the least of their priorities.

So I think, if conflict remains at a minimum, then we should see an improvement.

FELICITY OGILVIE: You want to get into rural and remote medicine back in Australia. How did going
to Africa help you with that decision?

STRATOS ROUSSOS: It really just showed me a way that medicine can be both adventurous but also you
can a big difference in populations where I guess a lot of doctors choose not to go for a variety
of reasons whether it's too remote or they have family commitments and those kind of things where I
feel I'm able to practice the art of medicine a lot more and for me it's more satisfying and it
also allows me to do a variety, to practice a variety of different aspects of medicine. So that's
the real drawcard out for me to gather, from a personal point of view, being to travel to different
areas, see a lot of Australia and help populations in need.

FELICITY OGILVIE: You're about to go to a small Tasmanian town now, Georgetown which is in the
north of the state. What do you expect to find there as you start your GP training?

STRATOS ROUSSOS: It's a good question, I'm not really sure what to expect. I think it will be a
different type of medicine than I'll be used to. It is a rural town but I'm lucky enough to be
working with two quite experienced doctors there as mentors. So, hoping to learn a lot and for me
it's a completely different experience to what I've been used to. So I'm looking forward to it as
being a positive experience.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Dr Stratos Roussos speaking to Felicity Ogilvie.