Returning home

Reporter HANNAH KNIGHT catches up with plastic surgeon Broughton Snell ...

Basically, we're still growing but people need to realise the services are here. - Broughton Snell

THE Bendigo Advertiser this week begins publishing a series of profiles on health care specialists working in Bendigo.

The Central Victorian Medical Recruitment Taskforce worked diligently to create a sustainable medical workforce in Central Victoria and the Bendigo Advertiser is now helping to spread the word about the expertise available in Bendigo.

BROUGHTON Snell is further eliminating the need for Bendigo residents to travel to Melbourne for specialist health care services.

Mr Snell is a specialist plastic and craniomaxillofacial surgeon and has returned home to Bendigo after honing his skills in practices around the world.

"I was raised in Bendigo, I went to Camp Hill Primary School and then I went to Girton," Mr Snell said.

"My mother and father worked in the hospital here.

"Dad was a geriatrician here for many years and mum was a nurse in ED.

"I went away to university, to the University of Sydney, and trained at Westmead Hospital for my basic surgical training.

"I did a year at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and did my plastics training in Adelaide."

Mr Snell completed two fellowships - one with the Australian Craniofacial Unit and another at the Seattle Caniofacial Centre.

"I was in Seattle up until December last year and then the plan was always to come back to Bendigo," he said.

"I grew up here and I knew coming back here would be a great opportunity for me as a plastic surgeon."

Mr Snell is working closely with Bendigo's other plastic surgeon Richard Dickinson.

"He's just up the hallway here at Bendigo Day Surgery and between the two of us we should be able to provide most plastic surgical services for most of central Victoria," Mr Snell said.

"That will hopefully get rid of the need for people to go to Melbourne for treatment.

"They should be able to stay home in Bendigo.

"Richard has more of an interest in breast reconstruction whereas I have more of an interest in head and neck and some of those big micro surgical cases require two specialist surgeons.

"So you can't do them by yourself so you need to work as a team and that's what Richard and I will be working as moving forward.

"He would be the captain for the breast reconstruction cases and I'd be the first in command for the head/neck reconstruction."

Mr Snell said Bendigo was home to some "really well-trained specialists".

"There's well trained urologists, general surgeons, physicians, emergency medicine physicians," he said.

"So people from this region, it services 400,000, they should be able to stay in Bendigo.

"With the new Bendigo Hospital coming in line, I've worked in three states in Australia, I've worked in two countries, and I would say the doctors and nurses here, their skill is on par, some of them would actually shine in the environment overseas.

"The quality is here.

"And people need to know that."

Mr Snell said there was a lack of understanding within the community about the services available in Bendigo.

"We're still growing as a group, the specialists in Bendigo, and we're attracting more and more," he said.

"There's new ENT surgeons in town, there's myself the new plastic surgeon, we'd be looking at getting more in the future because certainly the work is here.

"Basically, we're still growing but people need to realise the services are here."

Mr Snell said there was room for at least two more plastic surgeons in Bendigo.

"We're going to be actively recruiting over the next few years to build a comprehensive unit in Bendigo so that most things plastic and reconstructive can be treated here in Bendigo," he said.

With the multi-million dollar new Bendigo Hospital project on track for completion in 2016, Mr Snell said the facility was already helping attract specialists to the region.

"In terms of health care in general, that facility is going to be world class and it's going to be big," he said.

"It's a growing population, I think Bendigo's now the third largest city in Victoria, it needs a big referral hospital.

"And that's what Bendigo Health is going to provide."

Mr Snell is passionate about his job and described "plastics" as the restoration of form and function.

"So we don't necessarily focus on any one system or part of the body but we focus on quality of life for people," he said.

"And as a surgeon that's quite a unique focus to have.

"So we deal with anything from skin cancer to hand surgery to head and neck surgery and then aesthetic surgery.

"We really cover a whole range of areas and that's what drew me to plastics, the fact it wasn't one particular system, or one particular point, it was really diverse in scope."

Mr Snell said craniofacial surgery could change people's lives.

"That's really about changing the way people can perceive themselves and also be perceived by others," he said.

"It's also about function and the way they interact with their environment because it's the way that people see them - it's the way they see themselves, confidence and for example, having a mouth that works certainly helps you move forward with life.

"In terms of hands, that's how most people make a living, irrespective of whether you're a manual laborer or a thinker, you still use your hands ... if someone like a farmer gets an injury during harvest, having those injuries treated in Bendigo, rehabilitated in Bendigo and worked back into their occupation by specialists in Bendigo is something new for the region.

"Even though we service right up to Echuca and Mildura and as far as you can possibly think, for some people being treated in Bendigo is still a lot easier even if they're travelling four hours, then going an extra hour and a half down the road to Melbourne which is the big smoke which is where people don't necessarily have any family and find it difficult to find accommodation.

"That's really the key, that they can be treated at home."

Mr Snell is using new technologies to enhance his practice.

"We're using virtual surgical planning to plan some of the craniofacial cases," he said.

"This is a technique I learnt while I was in the States.

"It's relatively new technology and there's only a few of us in the country doing it.

"With the skills I've got at the moment, I'll be working on a few cases in the future and then as the technology develops, I"ll be going backwards and forwards to the States to sort of keep that up to speed.

"It's a very dynamic field plastic surgery.

"It's really based on principles rather than particular procedures.

"So our principles we've been working on for centuries but we're also working on new technologies to help us guide decision making."

More information about the Central Victorian Medical Recruitment Taskforce and the work it did to bring specialists to Bendigo is available at www.cvmrt.com.au

Keep an eye on the Bendigo Advertiser's website at www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/hospitalhq for the next instalment in the profile series. 

The Bendigo Advertiser is also continuing to publish a series of profiles on the various people involved in the multi-million dollar New Bendigo Hospital project.

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