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Dunedin Surgeon to Chair College of Surgeons

Media Release
1 July 2008

Dunedin Academic and Orthopaedic Surgeon to Chair College of Surgeons

Dunedin orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Jean-Claude Theis, has been elected as the new Chair of the New Zealand National Board of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

Professor Theis, who succeeds Wellington otolaryngologist , Cathy Ferguson, has been Deputy Chair of the Board since 2006.

An academic as well as a clinician, Professor Theis is an orthopaedic surgeon at Dunedin Hospital as well as Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Associate Dean Postgraduate Education at the Dunedin School of Medicine at the University of Otago.

A native of Luxembourg, Professor Theis completed his initial medical training in France and postgraduate training in the United Kingdom. He worked in both countries as an orthopaedic and general surgeon before gaining qualifications in tropical medicine. He spent two years working as a surgical registrar in Rwanda and Togo. He has also developed a strong interest in paediatric orthopaedics.

Professor Theis came to New Zealand in 1988, working in Dunedin as a surgical locum before accepting a permanent position in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Otago.

“At the time, I thought the health system was well organised. Unfortunately that is no longer the case,” he said.

One of a small number of surgeons working entirely within the public system in New Zealand Professor Theis is considered an expert on the design of booking systems and the prioritisation of elective surgery. He has worked with Ministry of Health and DHB officials on the development of current surgical booking systems but says improvements can still be made.

“I would like to see health infrastructure strengthened to enable more acute, as well as more elective surgery, to be carried out.”

He says that workforce issues are a top priority for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

“Surgery volumes are expected to rise by 51 per cent by 2026 just because of our ageing and growing population. We will need hundreds of extra surgeons to cope. Our health infrastructure must be robust enough to train and support them.

“Long-term planning is needed to ensure the country had enough surgeons.” he said


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