Graphic: Dr Stephen Andrews
It’s well documented that Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world with two thirds of us diagnosed with the disease before the age of 70.
The more remote you get, the greater the challenge of accessing medical services which is why, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section), strives to get more health care to where people live, the furthest corner, the finest care.
In conjunction with the primary healthcare team at RFDS Charleville, Dr Stephen Andrews is a Dermatologist who periodically flies in and out of locations across south-western regional Queensland, conducting clinics that undertake skin cancer surveillance and management.
“The program I’m involved in was previously provided primarily by Dr Jon Outridge, a highly experienced rural general practitioner with an interest in the detection and treatment of skin cancer,” Dr Andrews said.
"I was offered the opportunity to continue Dr Outridge’s valuable work, joining Charleville RFDS’s small, but very skilled team of rural general practitioners, to help see patients in remote areas seeking skin cancer surveillance.
“To a certain degree, it feels like I’ve come full-circle in that I undertook three fantastic student medical rotations a decade ago at the RFDS base in Charleville, and that gave me the chance to first meet many members of the team who are still here today, and I am privileged to now consider them colleagues.”
Dr Andrews is committed to providing a similar rural experience for vocational trainees in Dermatology, with the aim that when they finish their specialty training, they might consider outreach work as part of their service to our community.
When not with the RFDS, Dr Andrews works in South Brisbane at the Queensland Institute of Dermatology (QIDerm), a private, not for profit institution, committed to Dermatology education and training, which hosts registrars training to become Dermatologists.
A QIDerm trainee accompanies Dr Andrews and the RFDS team on their outreach skin clinics, not only to assist, but to expose them to the rewards, and challenges, of remote healthcare delivery.
He believes the relationship between the RFDS (Queensland Section) and QIDerm has the potential to give more clinicians the chance to gain vital experience in the detection and treatment of skin cancer.
“There are great benefits for both organisations working collaboratively in the Dermatology field.
“Being part of a multi-disciplinary team, such as at the RFDS Charleville Base, is rewarding in that as clinicians, we can share experiences and educate each other, ultimately for the benefit of our patients.
“We’re hoping to arrange educational up-skilling opportunities in Dermatology for interested Queensland RFDS GPs and nurse practitioners at QIDerm,” Dr Andrews said.
Dr Andrews has had previous experience in tele-dermatology through the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, is a qualified mechanical engineer, and has been flying light aircraft since he was 18.