Not that kind of doctor: Medical researcher bridging the gap between healthcare systems
Having spent ten years of study to become a doctor, Griffith University’s most recent export explains a grander vision than treating Australia’s healthcare issues one patient at a time.
In Australia, the public waiting lists for orthopaedic surgery struggle to keep up with the 1.8 million Australians currently suffering with osteoarthritis.
Sydney-born medical researcher Dan Donner recently submitted a 300-page doctoral thesis in which he describes the impacts of numerous factors on age-related disorders.
“For years, our research has focused on understanding the causes of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. As a result, I’ve had the opportunity to present our work to large audiences of doctors and scientists in the USA (Chicago), the UAE (Dubai) and Thailand (Bangkok).” said Dan Donner.
In his travels as a researcher, Dan became profoundly familiarised with the stark and nuanced differences between international healthcare systems across the globe. Similar to other exports, he envisions the future of healthcare as operating within its own global resource economy.
“Certain countries produce fantastic automotive exports while other countries are full of people who demand these exports; take Porsche, for example. Likewise, countries like Germany, Thailand and the UAE provide amazing opportunities in exporting their immediate healthcare solutions to ageing patients in countries with ballooning surgery waiting lists.”
Since finishing his time as an award-winning health academic at Australia’s Griffith University, the medical research scholar has been busy jet-setting between the Gold Coast, Dubai and Bangkok as the co-founder and orthopaedics director of SkyGen, Australia’s Orthopaedic and Spinal Healthcare Medical Travel Agency.
The Australia-based company offers medical travel packages to Australians needing immediate access to stem cell joint repair, orthopaedic surgery and spinal surgery in both Germany and Thailand, with a handful of additional countries now in the pipeline.
“We launched SkyGen years ago in response to the increasing rate of osteoarthritis in our ageing domestic population and the growing public surgery waiting lists that patients can typically face for procedures such as joint replacement and spinal surgery,” says Dan Donner.
As an academic, Dan lectured to thousands of Australian university students as they studied to become medical physicians, physiotherapists, pharmacists and dentists.
“I have always loved teaching health students. Professional health degrees are essential to building the domestic health economy here in Australia. Thankfully, these professions are generally well-remunerated here and there is a lot of motivation for graduates to stay in Australia and plug into our domestic healthcare demand.” said Dan Donner.
“Unlike strictly professional degrees, studying medical research forces us to appreciate the bigger picture and search for opportunities to solve healthcare issues with a broad and characteristically entrepreneurial attitude. However, very few scientists would call themselves entrepreneurs.”
In 2011, the Australian Government’s Commercialisation Training Scheme encouraged and funded ambitious business-minded PhD scholars to take on additional business management education and aimed at providing leading scientists like Dan an opportunity to tackle large-scale endeavours with the experienced support of tertiary academics.
“Thanks to my time and studies at both Griffith University and Southern Cross University I’ve developed the confidence to seek out health issues on a global scale and take the bold actions necessary to solve them.”
It was this background, alongside persistently ambitious network-building, which allowed Dan and his business partner to develop SkyGen, a company which he says now has the power to connect healthcare systems around the world.
“SkyGen has partnered with international leaders in orthopaedic surgery and regenerative medicine in Germany and Thailand to medically repair and replace the damaged joints of patients who are otherwise forced onto surgery waiting lists back home.”
Dan is ambivalent about the controversy that medical tourism has been shrouded in during the last few years it has been gaining in popularity. He explains however that most of the skepticism is driven by the few fear-mongers in the Australian private practice sector who are potentially more frightened for their own bottom line.
“Doctors educated either in Australia or overseas have had every opportunity to appreciate the magnificent healthcare provided both in Australia and overseas.”
“Orthopaedic surgeons are members of a global fraternity and it’s very uncommon for a local doctor to discount the prowess of a specialist surgeon just because they practice overseas.” – Dan Donner, MMedRes
“However, there are a few medical professionals in the private sector who are less familiar with the concept of medical travel and seem to cower at the prospect that patients will up-and-leave their private waiting lists.”
“Of course everyone hears most about the infrequent horror stories of people going overseas for surgery and not reaching their desired outcome. However these are generally people who attempt to sift through the countless healthcare providers by themselves, without experience and without guidance. In every country there are fantastic facilities operated by fantastic surgeons, and of course there is the other end of the spectrum, even in our developed world. To try and tar all medical travel with the same brush would be foolish.”
“As Australia’s dedicated orthopaedic and spinal medical travel agency, we work exclusively with JCI-accredited hospitals which adhere to international standards. In the interests of our highly-valued patients, we also adhere to a second level of internally-designed protocols for assessing each hospital’s suitability and the track record of its surgical teams.” said Dan.
“Medical tourism is a relatively new concept for Australians and we’re a little behind the global 8-ball in that respect. Many nations actively support the export of their medical services in order to help others meet domestic demands. Although there are many moving parts to medical travel, agencies make the process simple and stress-free for patients.”
“Thanks to medical travel agencies like SkyGen, the entire process from diagnosis to after-care and rehabilitation back home is a closed-loop, making the experience of receiving surgery overseas as simple as, or simpler than, surgery at the local private hospital back home.”
Dan Donner speaks about his experience in international orthopaedic healthcare:
*Please read: Although the information provided on this page may describe a particular patient experience and/or outcome, readers must understand that each patient presents with a unique medical history and may be recommended a different treatment/surgery by their surgeon to that described above. Individual results may vary between surgery centre/hospital, surgeon, surgery type and patient. Although SkyGen agrees to share all updates from patients at their request, SkyGen does not endorse any physical activities attempted by patients following surgery which do not follow the explicit instructions provided by their surgeon. SkyGen encourages all patients to discuss the risks of such activities with medical professionals before attempting these themselves.