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14 April, 2022

Pioneering Cairns surgeon celebrates diversity

DR Sarah Coll may have been just the second woman in Queensland to become a Fellow of Orthopaedic Surgery when she launched her career around 20 years ago, but it’s the diversity of her work in the far north and her passion for rural surgery that’s kept her local.

Dr Sarah Coll

“The trick with being a rural surgeon is you need resilience and to be able to stand by your decisions and I found I was doing more cases as a junior here than others were doing in capital cities and I’ve been able to maintain a broader practice, with Society memberships in both shoulder and hand surgery,” she said.

Operating at Cairns Private Hospital and Cairns Day Surgery, Dr Coll’s special interest in upper limbs sees her care for a lot of Work Cover patients with work-related repetitive injuries, including quite a few cane farmers and cattle farmers with shoulder issues, as well as patients with carpal tunnel issues. 

“We’ve innovated with the team at Cairns Day Surgery to do keyhole carpal tunnel surgery under local anaesthetic and the whole team helps keep a positive vibe in theatre,” she said, adding that this was particularly popular with older patients who were hesitant about having general anaesthetic. 

Dr Coll uses her arthroscopy experience – essentially operating through a keyhole being guided by a small camera – to also perform reconstructive knee and ankle surgery. 

“I have a very visual brain and once I have a camera in the joint, I don’t get disoriented,” she said. 

Dr Coll is just one of 73 female orthopaedic surgeons in Australia, amounting to five per cent of the cohort, but the number of female trainee orthopaedic consultants for this year is much more encouraging at 22 per cent. 

Dr Coll said she has tended to focus on her career, rather than her gender, and tries to achieve each goal and solve each challenge as they arise.

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