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2024 | Volume 25 | Issue 2

 

Advocating for wellbeing and improved training opportunities are top of the list for the new Aotearoa New Zealand (AoNZ) representative on the RACS Trainees’ Association (RACSTA) Committee.

Dr Blair Mason, who is in his third year of orthopaedic surgical training and has recently moved to the Hawke’s Bay, said parenthood and writing surgical rosters are among the experiences that drive him to champion the needs of his fellow Trainees.

Dr Mason grew up on the West Coast of the South Island and initially studied engineering geology at Canterbury University in Christchurch. From there he took a sharp left and enroled in the Auckland University School of Medicine.

It was partway through medical school that Dr Mason became drawn to surgery. He put this down to having excellent mentors and enjoying the satisfaction of being able to “tangibly intervene to get results for the patient”.

Back in Christchurch, he began the Orthopaedic Surgery training program in 2022.

Dr Mason describes his training to date as “a real journey” but says he has excellent support from his colleagues.

Part of the challenge is  that he is the father of two young boys (his eldest was just five months old when Dr Mason entered surgical education and training [SET]).

“Being a parent brings a new facet of understanding of the challenges of training and the need to balance the competing demands on your time—from the hospital, the College and at home.”

He said the number of parents in SET is growing, as the average age of Trainees increases and more Trainees navigate childcare responsibilities. As a representative on RACSTA, he hopes to advocate for a better work-life balance and rosters that minimise fatigue and maximise training opportunities.

Dr Mason said he has always enjoyed leadership roles and advocacy—he was a student representative on the board of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network. It was writing the roster for orthopaedics at Christchurch Hospital for 18 months, however, that gave him a glimpse behind the scenes of the medical system and got him interested in governance. 

At the time, Christchurch Hospital was suffering from staffing shortages among registrars and perioperative staff. For some Trainees, this has limited their training opportunities; with less surgery taking place there have been fewer opportunities for education and experience.

All of this led to Dr Mason jumping at the opportunity when the role as a RACSTA representative came up late in 2023.

“I saw it as a chance to contribute a meaningful voice and to represent the views of AoNZ Trainees.

“I hope to strengthen training opportunities and preserve the wellbeing of Trainees at the same time.”

While it is still early days for Dr Mason’s tenure on the RACSTA Committee, one idea he would like to progress in Aotearoa New Zealand is enabling training fees to be directly invoiced to hospitals*. At present, the fees, which can be significant, are invoiced to the Trainee, who then must apply for reimbursement by their employer. This can force some Trainees into debt. Smoothing this process would help reduce financial pressures, he said.

Find out more about RACSTA.

 

*This is available only in Aotearoa New Zealand.