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December 3, 2022

Northern Rivers Dr Sue Velovski recognised for her flood commitment

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Dr Sue Velovski. Photo supplied

Lismore and Ballina based Dr Sue Velovski was recognised at Friday’s Rural Medicine Australia (RMA22) conference dinner in Canberra for her commitment during the devastating February and March floods as well as her work in creating a ‘safe workplace culture’.

Dr Velovski is a rural Specialist General Surgeon who provides a variety of surgical services in Lismore and Ballina, including cancer surgery and trauma-related surgery. 

‘Sue is an absolute powerhouse, both in her local region and also on the state and national stage,’ Dr Megan Belot said.

‘She was a tireless advocate for cancer patients in Lismore during the COVID crisis, working hard to ensure they received timely surgical intervention at a time when the pandemic was impacting access to surgery.

‘Sue also played a huge role in the medical response to this year’s devastating Northern Rivers floods disaster, working tirelessly to assist flood-impacted patients. As soon as she could leave her own home, she started helping patients with medication supplies and wound management for flood-related injuries wherever she could reach patients…even including service stations. 

Active for Drs

Dr Velovski was raised in Newcastle ,when it was just a small rural town. Her parents emigrated to Australia from the former Yugoslavia when they were young – her father coming to Australia on his own when he was only 12, to earn money to send back overseas to his family. 

Dr Velovski’s first experience of the medical sector was an unlikely one – she and her twin brother spent many afternoons at medical clinics and hospitals doing their homework while their mother and father interpreted for others in the migrant community. Later, she got to see the ‘power of community’ when the Newcastle community raised more than two million dollars (a lot of money 25 years ago) for a local oncology unit. The money raised was being held by the government of the day against the community’s wishes, until strike action by local dock workers saw the funds released to build the unit. The Newcastle Mater Oncology Unit is now a world class facility.

‘As a fluent speaker in Macedonian, Sue also provided health advice on SBS’s Macedonian channel and local media, to help the community to stay safe during the pandemic,’ said Dr Belot. 

‘She has also been an active participant on the NSW Natural Disaster Emergency Response Group, and has advocated strongly for better supports for local doctors whose practices were badly flood damaged. 

‘In junior doctor space, Sue is making a huge impact. She is an incredibly strong advocate for junior hospital doctors and their wellbeing, and is passionate about ensuring a safe workplace culture for junior doctors in medical workplaces and the clinical training space.’

This is for my team

Dr Velovski in receiving the award said, ‘I am totally embarrassed and humbled to receive this Award. I tried to talk my way out of it (unsuccessfully) as, for me, it has always been about working with my teams – no one person creates a good or better outcome. But I was advised (and I do still listen to my mentors) that I should accept it graciously.

‘This Award then really is for my practice staff, colleagues, trainees and medical students – particularly those who lived through the floods and helped so much in getting healthcare to those who needed it… and of course my mentors, who steered me away from city medicine to the challenges of global and rural health – Drs Bob Sillar, Hamish Foster and Johnny Graham. ‘Being a Rural Surgeon has been an immensely rewarding career for me.

‘I love seeing the smile on a cancer patient’s face when the news is good, I love working with patients and developing their trust when the diagnosis isn’t favourable; I love seeing the amazing trust that my local GPs have in the care of their patients by my team. 

‘I also love seeing the good outcomes for trauma patients – particularly when my metropolitan surgical colleagues say “How did you do that in country NSW?” I also love being involved with and advocating for my community as we face the challenges from nature, and life, that we all confront. Most of all, I love seeing young trainee doctors from all walks of life recognise their unknown potential and give back to their communities. After all, the only thing we leave behind is what we teach the next generation – both technical and non-technical – so it had better be good!’


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2 COMMENTS

  1. Sue is a wonderful surgeon. I have been a patient of Sue’s for ten plus years and feel qualified to say she is an all round great woman, the type you want on your side in any medical problem. Congratulations Sue well deserved. ❤

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