Focus Welcomes our newest orthopaedic surgeon to town, Dr Neil Ferguson … a great addition to our health services here in Armidale.
What brought you to Armidale, how long have you been here, and where are you originally from?
I’m originally from England. I met Sarah, who is an Australian Psychologist, in the seaside town of Brighton while she was on a working-holiday visa. She ended up staying for eight years, and our first daughter was born there. Eventually, she convinced me to move to Australia, and we haven’t looked back. After a couple of years in Sydney and Melbourne (where our second daughter was born) we realised that the big city life wasn’t for us. The traffic, congestion and the stress was a big-turn off. A year and a half ago, we moved to Armidale – and we’re so glad we did! The people are friendly, the schools are great, there’s a university and the scenery is stunning (the coffee’s not bad either). We feel really lucky to work in such a welcoming and diverse community.
What do you love most about Armidale?
The people. We have met some really friendly, interesting and generous people in the time we have been here. Both colleagues and patients in my work at the public hospital, and in my new private practice, New England Hip and Knee, have been so supportive.
Can you tell us about your specialty and your training?
I’m an orthopaedic surgeon, which basically means that I am a musculoskeletal surgeon, operating on the limbs. It’s a specialty that I love and feel very lucky to be working in. I get to meet and operate on such a diverse range of people, from young children to the elderly, people with broken bones or sports injuries through to people incapacitated by painful joints. For the most part it’s not life-or-limb, blood-and-guts surgery (although sometimes it can be); instead, it is quality of life surgery.
My training began in the UK, with my medical degree at Manchester University in the north of England. I then moved to the south-coast, where I did my basic surgical training (including cardiac, plastic, general and neurosurgery) in and around Brighton. I was then selected onto the prestigious Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospitals Orthopaedic rotation for my specialist orthopaedic training, working in hospitals in Kent, Sussex and London.
On completion of my training, and having been awarded the FRCS(Orth), in 2013, I moved out to Australia to do further sub-specialist fellowship training, in hip and knee surgery, working in Bendigo, Melbourne and Sydney. I took and was successful in, the FRACS(Orth) exam last year (the same exam that Australian orthopaedic surgeons have to take in order to complete their specialist training). I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of exams!
What are your plans for your practice here in Armidale?
For a small city, Armidale has impressive resources in health. I want New England Hip and Knee to play an important part in Armidale’s reputation for providing great health care in a regional setting. Unlike other regional cities, people can choose to stay local for their operations and be close-by to support and familiarity during a potentially stressful time. It also means they are close to their surgeon should there be any unexpected issues or problems. I’m really excited to be able to provide, to the people of Armidale and New England, cutting-edge technology and techniques that maximise the accuracy and effectiveness of hip and knee surgery, including computer navigated knee replacements, direct anterior approach hip replacements (I am the only surgeon in the New England region who has had fellowship training in this technique) and patient-specific guides for hip replacements, which involves the use of X-rays, a low-dose CAT scan, and computer simulations along with 3D printing to give a personalised hip replacement, which I think is a game-changer. No other surgeons north of Newcastle are using this technique.
What inspires you and why?
What both inspires and humbles me is seeing the impact of the procedures that I’ve been trained to do, on my patients. Be it a hip replacement that allows a patient to throw away the walking aids and pain killers and get back to active life, or a knee ligament reconstruction that enables someone to resume top level competitive sport.
When not being a busy surgeon, what would we find you doing?
Of course, work gets busy, but part of the appeal of not working in a big city means I get to spend time with my family. I have two daughters who are two and five years old. Anyone with kids would know that’s enough to keep you busy! We love to get out and explore all the natural beauty surrounding Armidale or meet up with friends for coffee at the local farmers’ market. I have a soft spot for Goldfish Bowl Coffee and pastries, so you could find me there from time to time!
Thanks Dr Ferguson.