Training young doctors in East Timor
03 September, 2012
Dr Jorgina dos Santos treating a patient at Dili’s Guido Valadares National Hospital. Photo: AusAID
East Timor recently launched its first-ever postgraduate medical course in general surgery, obstetrics, paediatrics, anaesthesia and internal medicine. The Post Graduate diplomas are being delivered by Universidade Nacional Timor Loro Sa’e (UNTL) as part of a new and broader package of health support funded by Australia.
Until now, Timorese doctors wishing to undertake further studies had no option but to leave the country to study abroad. This often meant years of studying in foreign universities, away from family and friends. More importantly, it prevented them from practicing in East Timor where their skills and expertise are sorely needed.
Fortunately, this will soon change. Through collaboration between East Timor’s Ministry of Health, UNTL, AusAID and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS), Timorese doctors can now study for Post Graduate diplomas while continuing to work with patients at the national hospital. This will mean happier doctors able to contribute to healthier communities.
One such happy doctor is Jorgina dos Santos, currently working in the paediatrics department of Dili’s main public hospital—Guido Valadares National Hospital.
'I am delighted to be able to continue my studies in Dili,' said Dr Jorgina as queues of patients wait patiently to see her. 'After spending five years abroad studying to become a doctor, I am relieved to have an opportunity to remain in East Timor and develop my skills.'
Dr Jorgina dreamt of becoming a paediatrician while in primary school.
'In those days, many of my school mates fell ill to what we now know are preventable illnesses. It was then that I wanted to be a doctor so I could help the future generations of Timorese stand tall.'
Dr Jorgina is among the first of 22 junior doctors to receive Post Graduate medical training. On completion of their diplomas by the end of 2013, graduates will work in district hospitals and health centres bringing with them much needed basic specialist skills. With continued on-the-job experience and further studies supported by Australia, East Timor's emerging generation of young doctors and surgeons are at the forefront of the country’s efforts to improve health outcomes.
Australian support to healthcare in East Timor empowering girls and women
For many Timorese, improvements to the quality of health care cannot come soon enough. 45 per cent of children are underweight for their age and one in two suffer from stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. When combined with East Timor’s high fertility rate and alarming maternal mortality ratio, it is no surprise that East Timor’s Government has prioritised the training of its doctors. The calculus is simple: better educated Timorese doctors will mean better maternal and child health care. This is saving lives.
Australia has been the largest bilateral donor to the health sector in East Timor since it gained independence a decade ago. Our support is aligned to East Timor’s objective of increasing universal access to comprehensive, high quality health services—especially women and children. Australian support is helping ensure essential healthcare services reach rural and remote villages through monthly mobile clinics. It is helping to empower girls and women to plan their families. It's also reducing child and infant mortality by improving access to safe water and improved sanitation facilities.
Phase two of the successful Australia Timor-Leste Program of Assistance for Secondary Services (ATLASS) builds on our strong collaboration with RACS that began in 2001 to deliver vital health services in East Timor. The new, $8.7 million program will place long-term international specialists in general surgery, obstetrics, paediatrics, anaesthesia, and orthopaedic surgery in East Timor for the next four years. International specialists will also contribute to UNTL’s delivery of postgraduate diplomas by helping develop the curriculum, undertake some teaching and provide follow-up mentoring and supervision to ensure the quality of the diplomas.
Last Reviewed: 3 September, 2012