IFEM Humanitarian Award

Rose’s interest in improving emergency care overseas first started back home in Adelaide. As Director of Emergency Medicine Training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, she trained doctors from all over the world, including one of the first ever Nepalese emergency specialists. It was during this time that she realised there was a need to build the emergency care capacity we already had here in Australia into the wider world.

‘I thought, this is great that they are coming to us, but it’s always better, if you’ve got the ability, to go to them,’ Rose says.

She found her first overseas post in Tanzania, where her and her husband – a paramedic and nurse-educator – spent four years working to improve resuscitation skills at Murgwanza District Hospital in the country’s north-west.

Rose came to see that real change required long-term commitment in a local healthcare community. She received her next opportunity for humanitarian work through ACEM’s long-standing relationship with Myanmar and FACEM Associate Professor Chris Curry.

In 2013, Rose and her family moved to Myanmar with the aim of staying long term and working with the local healthcare workforce to mentor and establish emergency medicine as a specialty. Working clinically and teaching, she also helped to develop and review the curriculum for the Masters in Emergency Medicine, the local equivalent of the FACEM Training Program. As the locals went from learning to leading in emergency medicine training, Rose became an administrative and systems mentor. Being hands-on was incredibly helpful to build her understanding of the local culture and helped her work to have maximum impact.

Rose says that the training implemented during her time there has had a huge impact on morbidity and mortality rates in Yangon General Hospital.

‘When we arrived, we were getting between 20 and 30 deaths in Yangon General emergency department a week. When we left, on average there was about four a week. That’s a big difference, and that’s from bringing in primary emergency care.’

Raising the profile of emergency medicine also created an avenue for doctors to go into this specialty and have it seen as an honourable and well-respected job. Once the domain of junior doctors, emergency departments are now increasingly seen as a place for leaders in healthcare in Myanmar. Emergency doctors have played major roles in coordination and leadership for the country’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Now home in Adelaide, Rose is still in weekly contact with many of her colleagues in Myanmar, and says there is huge despair at the difficulties they are facing with the current political situation. Many medical professionals have been arrested and detained, including the Director of Yangon General Hospital Emergency Department and Rose’s good friend, Professor Maw Maw Oo.

‘That is a blow, because he has been an important leader. When you lose some of that leadership, it makes it very difficult. The hospitals have been left in disarray and at the moment the delta strain is taking off,’ Rose says.

Many FACEMs came across to Myanmar and assisted Rose with her work during her time there. She says the IFEM Humanitarian Award, presented at the closing of ICEM 2021, goes beyond her and demonstrates how the College continually looks to help others, even during a health crisis.

‘During this time of COVID-19, people get very inward looking. To gain a humanitarian award for work outside of the country reflects well on the attitudes and ethos of ACEM.’

She is very grateful to the people who nominated her and for the recognition of her work.

‘It’s an honour, it’s a privilege to be recognised on an international stage, for work that doesn’t necessarily get a lot of highlight.’

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