Two years ago I moved to Thursday Island for a remote, tropical adventure. Thursday Island is one of 274 islands that lie between the northern tip of Queensland and Papua New Guinea. The blue azure waters, laid-back lifestyle and close-knit community provide a wonderful backdrop to practise interesting and logistically challenging medicine. No two days are ever the same and the medicine here is never boring. Some of my favourite clinics require a morning helicopter or ferry ride, which is always a much better way to start the day than commuting in city traffic. Clinics are often varied and include acute presentations, minor procedures and complex primary care. I have a particular interest in women’s health, so I love yarning to women about family planning and if women are interested, I’m able to offer them a Mirena, so they don’t have to travel away from their home and family. My ability to offer women’s health services to some of the most remote parts of Australia is one of my favourite parts of this job. Co-ordinating the retrieval of unwell patients from the remote islands to Thursday Island Hospital can be challenging, especially if there’s rough weather or logistical issues prevent our retrieval helicopter from flying. When there are retrieval delays, I can find myself managing an unwell patient from a distance and without the ability to take a history in person or to examine the patient myself. We see our fair share of tropical diseases, including dengue and melioidosis, envenomation syndromes (both snakes and marine), rheumatic heart disease, autoimmune disease, as well as non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Having said that, some of my favourite consults involve caring for elders who still maintain the island way of life and keep healthy by walking, gardening, fishing and eating a traditional diet. I often laugh with them, telling them that they make my job so easy because all they need to do to stay off any medications and to keep doing more of what they’re already doing! I work with a wonderful team of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and health workers. I learn from my colleagues as well as my patients every day. Torres Strait Islanders have a strong culture and a rich history, both of which influence their complex health beliefs today. Their stories and lives are inextricably linked to their islands and surrounding seas. It’s not unusual for a turtle or a coconut tree to play a pivotal role in a story about why or how someone became sick. This makes their stories unique and it’s such a privilege to be a part of their health journey. My weekends are full of outdoor adventures, including boating, biking, hiking, fishing and camping. I am often reminded of how lucky and privileged I am to live in such a unique place, a place that few people in the world will ever take the opportunity to visit.


Dr Alex Hofer
Thursday Island, QLD