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Far away is never far from Otago

Catherine Willett profile photoCatherine Willett, Master of Health Science
(Sports Medicine)

Podiatrist Catherine Willett jumped straight into postgraduate studies in 2005 after her undergraduate degree, tackling a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Medicine at Otago. It was her first taste of distance learning, and when she moved to outback Queensland she decided to continue with her studies to upgrade her qualificaton to a Masters degree.

Continuing with study is an important way Catherine can keep in touch with her clinical knowledge and skills.

“Working in remote areas, you often feel out of touch with what’s going on in the cities. We don't have the opportunity to attend conferences and workshops readily so there’s a stigma that remote practitioners aren't as good or as well qualified as those on the coast. So I decided to enrol in a Masters of Health Science to keep up-to-date.”

Catherine’s main interest is in Sports Medicine and while she doesn't see many sports patients, her study keeps her skills current as well as fufilling an interest.

Catherine works as a podiatrist for a multi-disciplinary team based in Mt Isa. She travels on a weekly basis to small towns and communities throughout northwest Queensland. They service a huge geographical area — it’s common to drive three hours on a dirt road just to get to work.

The team includes many other allied health professionals such as dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and a psychologist. They deliver chronic disease support and health promotion activities, and Catherine sees any foot problem that comes in the door.

“Often for these isolated towns, you’re the only person they’ll see regarding a problem so you need a wide generalist training and be able to deal with any condition presented. “

“My Masters is expanding my knowledge because I choose papers in areas not directly linked to my undergraduate studies — things I want to know but didn't get the chance to learn about. For example, the paper on pain gave me much more insight into treating acute and chronic pain and how varied and subjective it can be. But my thesis in rugby taping is more for interest, although hopefully I'll be able to use it a lot more in the future.”

“Otago plans and organises everything really well so you always know when things are scheduled or due. You just need to be well organised. You can feel isolated, but if you attend the lectures and check Blackboard and emails often you can be in touch with people as much as you need. The lecturers are just at the end of the phone — you can call in from anywhere.”