Tom in Tonga

Tom first contacted us last year, looking to lend his skills as a Podiatrist to our mission. He recently spent three weeks in Tonga, supporting the Rehabilitation Department team to develop their service delivery systems.

Before he left, we asked him about his journey from being a young Australian with a passion for health, to where he is today!

Tom watches carefully as another man dresses a patient's foot.

1. How did you find out about volunteering with Motivation Australia?
Motivation Australia came onto my radar after my previous program director sent me an advertisement regarding a job opportunity for which I applied. I am very grateful for this as it has led to the opportunity to volunteer and return to the Pacific. I am glad the role allows me to utilise my study and working background. So far, I am finding it to be a very rewarding experience thanks to such an incredibly positive and welcoming team!

2.What are you most excited about your volunteering opportunity with Motivation Australia?
I am very excited to be travelling to Tonga to be involved at Vaiola hospital and some of the community health centres. I am very keen to gain a deeper understanding of the culture in Tonga and to learn about the history of the land and people.

I am looking forward to working closely with the local staff, making friends along the way and supporting the Tonga Rehabilitation and Mobility project. I hope that my involvement and skill set will contribute towards a lasting positive impact for patients with diabetes and a reduction in the prevalence of diabetes-related lower limb amputations. I look forward to helping enhance current systems in place and improving the quality and quantity of documentation and reporting for data collection.

I feel Podiatry is a component which will contribute a major impact to the community and population needs and am excited to utilize my knowledge and skillset with local teams and staff.

3. Have you volunteered before? If so where?
I have previously volunteered for Headspace in Bundaberg as I am passionate about mental health and feel it is an incredibly important area. I believe a biopsychosocial approach to health care allows me to consider the impact our care has on quality of life. This is another reason I am thoroughly enjoying being involved with Motivation Australia.

I have also done some volunteer work as a ‘reef keeper citizen scientist’, assisting on a project for data collection and awareness of marine life and environmental conservation¬†on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

4. What started your interest in Podiatry?
One of the contributing factors was a sporting background with a heavy involvement in both basketball and football. Before studying Podiatry, I started a Bachelor of Medical Radiation Science (Nuclear Medicine). However, wanting to work more closely with patients shifted me to change my studies.

Most recently I was working for SA Health at Port Augusta Hospital as a rural generalist Podiatrist in a high-risk foot clinic. I was working within a multi-disciplinary team and was closely involved with the prosthetics and orthotics team. A major component of my role was effective wound healing, management and prevention of lower limb neurovascular complications.

5. What have been your most memorable experiences in Podiatry so far?
My most memorable experiences in Podiatry relate to the rural placements in which I was fortunate enough to partake. Working with communities from the Anangu Pjitantjara Yankuntjatjara Lands in central Australia, and Whyalla Hospital and South Tarawa Hospital in Kiribati fuelled my interests in cultural awareness and the many challenges faced in rural and regional health. All were unique opportunities which contributed to my wanting to return to the Pacific and work in areas with reduced access to resources and services.

I have also enjoyed the varied case load at Port Augusta and other rural areas throughout SA, which allowed me to explore some more of my home state while learning more about the varying community needs.

6. Where do you see yourself going next?
My main fields of interest in Podiatry are high risk foot care and biomechanics with an emphasis on diabetic care, management and education. However, I would really like to work further in paediatrics.

My main passion lies in education, which I am able to incorporate into my work and feel is a key tool in patient care for any discipline. I have enjoyed improving my skills and knowledge in these areas throughout my work and look forward to continuing to utilise my studies for patient care in whichever communities and area I work next.

I thoroughly enjoy project work and would love to see myself working in development to contribute towards making a lasting positive impact on communities in need.