A new group of freshly scarred Antarctic doctors have arrived at the Australian Antarctic Division ahead of their posting to the icy continent.
The doctors, who are in Kingston head office for months of intensive training, have voluntarily undergone an operation to remove their appendix before they head south.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Jeff Ayton, said it’s an unusual job requirement, but one that’s necessary.
“We only have a single doctor at each station over winter, so we can’t afford for them to fall ill with a life threatening condition such as appendicitis,” Dr Ayton said.
“The appendix removal policy came into force in the 1950s after our doctor on Heard Island became sick with appendicitis, requiring a complex emergency evacuation.”
Later, in 1961, there was also the case of a Russian Antarctic doctor, Dr Rogozov, having to undertake his own appendectomy under local anaesthetic, with assistance of a lay surgical team.
“It was a remarkable feat and one that no doubt saved his life, but it’s something we want to avoid at our stations.”
The Australian Antarctic Program doctors are undertaking a range of training over the next two months including expedition medical skills, dentistry and lay surgical training.
The doctors will spend a year as the sole medical practitioners at Casey, Davis and Mawson station in Antarctica and on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.