Dr Starmer

RFDS Doctor educating youth to ‘Survive 25’

Date published

22 Aug 2023

After working in emergency departments for almost 15 years, Dr Katrina Starmer has seen her fair share of trauma.

Now working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) as Medical Education Lead in Cairns, Dr Starmer is using her experience to educate grade 12 students through her Survive 25 program.

“Trauma is the leading cause of death for young people under the age of 25, and 1 in 25 people will suffer severe injury or death from alcohol or drugs,” Dr Starmer said.

“Sometimes young people end up in Emergency due to bad luck, but sometimes it’s because of a choice they may have made and sometimes it’s a combination of both.

“Young people shouldn’t be spending time in ED with me – they should be out enjoying their fabulous young lives!”

Dr Starmer presenting

To help educate young people, Dr Starmer decided to put together a program for school students, showcasing the consequences of different actions.

“I decided that I wanted to create a program to reduce the likelihood of young people ending up in ED, so I created the Survive 25 program. It is a very frank discussion on the real risk of injury and death from alcohol, drugs, misadventure, and trauma,” she said.

“Young people can be naturally impetuous and impulsive but, in most cases, don’t want to actually hurt themselves. Often, they just don’t know about or don’t want to think about the consequences of their actions when they are stuck in a moment in time.

Survive 25 program

“When young people come into the emergency department after misadventure, I feel like I wish I could go back in time and show them photos of what is about to happen to them so they can make choices to avoid their injury.

“I talk to students about some of the consequences of risky activities like drink driving or diving into shallow water in the hope that it will trigger them to think twice before acting in future.

“If they can see the potential outcomes of their own choices maybe they would be more able to determine their own destiny.”

Dr Starmer uses stories from her work as an Emergency Specialist at the Cairns Hospital and with the RFDS to support her presentation.

“The presentation also includes some hands-on and interactive aspects, as well as some basic useful first aid lessons for what to do if a student or their friend is ill or injured,” she said.

“The students especially like the practical component – for example we talk through what to do if they find their friend unconscious from a drug overdose or with burns from throwing petrol onto a fire, amongst other things.”

Dr Starmer donation

The program now provides the opportunity for schools to donate to the RFDS (Queensland Section) with Dr Starmer hoping the program will assist in ensuring the RFDS can continue to provide the finest care to the furthest corner.

“I had been running the program for free as a volunteer until mid-2023 when I decided to invite the most recent school to instead make a donation to the RFDS,” she said.

“The school donated $500! All schools that benefit from the program in future will also be invited to donate to the RFDS.

“Now, not only does the program benefit the students to help them make good choices and stay safe, but the students and the school can feel good about contributing to the amazing work of the RFDS to directly help patients in need.”

Thank you to Cairns West Rotary and Rotary Cairns Sunrise for donating the drunk googles to assist the presentation. 

To make a donation to the RFDS on behalf of the Survive 25 program please click on the donation button. To enquire about the Survive 25 program, please complete the form below.

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