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Fijian Neurosurgeon Awarded President's Medal At The RACS Annual Scientific Congress 2024

Dr Alan Biribo, a seasoned neurosurgeon who has spent years devoted to championing health outcomes for Fijians, was recognised at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) 2024 Annual Scientific Congress, where he received the President's Medal in addition to presenting the Rowan Nicks Scholarship Lecture.

Long-time friend of the Pasifika Medical Association (PMA), DrBiribo has been a dedicated force for the Fijian health sector. Some of his accomplishments include leading the first neurologicaltumoursurgery in Lautoka, and more recently, the first neuro-spine surgery through Pacific Health Specialists in Nadi.

In addition to his tireless work in neurological care and surgery for Fiji, his regional experience includes deployments leading neurological visiting medical teams to other Pacific countries via the New Zealand Medical Treatment Scheme (NZMTS) – which is funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and delivered by the PMA.

He shares how his passion for neurosurgery began.

“There were visiting Neurosurgery teams that would come through the RACS-Pacific Islands Program, Sai Medical and Friends of Fiji scheme. I was attached to them as their focal point on the ground.

"Having them come every year had us thinking 'how could we sustain this service in the absence of visiting teams?' particularly as my mentor, DrNadanachandran, was close to retirement. This was DrNadanachandran’s legacy to us. He wanted to see us perform our own neurological procedures, at least the basic ones.”

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DrBiribo’spresentation, titled'Lessons learned from working in isolation: the story of neurosurgery in Fiji,'is a testament to his commitment to develop and sustain this crucial service for Fiji.

"In order for me to get here, others had to sacrifice. It’s a humbling journey for me. I am happy to see that it’s not just me now - there are two more coming through the program and a third who is already in Melbourne and is following in my steps.Hopefully we will have a good critical mass that can sustain this specialty going forward. And we can probably start our own training program; that is a long-term goal for us.”

He also credits the value of networking and partnership in achieving health outcomes, such as the relationship with the PMA and its President, Dr KikiMaoate.

“The PMA has been a source of support. Sometimes they directly fund us for things, but more importantly they help us find links or networks to enable us to get through difficult situations. They’ve always been a reliable partner that we can fall back on, who helps in so many ways.

“DrMaoatehas been great, even before PMA, and he has always been a strong advocate for local leadership and that aspect of his work has just carried through to PMA. We value this and hope to continue strengthening this relationship.”

With a father and brother who are anesthetists, a mother who was a nurse and a sister in micro-biology, DrBiriboshares where his selfless conviction for contributing to health outcomes in Fiji stems from.

“We have all trained abroad, and we have all come back home to work in Fiji. That value has been instilled by our parents to help our people first - that is more rewarding.Humanity is the same everywhere, but the need is so great here, so that’s why we all came back. Our links are here and keep us grounded, and we owe something back to our people, so that’s why we stay.”

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