Professor Andrew Davidson
It took Andrew Davidson a while to find his passion as a young man contemplating his career options. Having studied a little of medicine, engineering and science, he decided that medicine would offer him the most interesting of the three career paths. Andrew’s first contact with The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) was not overwhelmingly positive. “As a medical student”, he recalls, “it was a fairly sort of daunting place. I didn’t really enjoy my paediatric term”. But after deciding on anaesthesia as his speciality, Andrew returned to the RCH for a six-month training rotation, and had a very different experience:
“I loved it. Instantly I thought this was a fantastic institution to be in; there was a tremendous can-do attitude by the staff, there was a real sort of global outlook, people weren’t afraid to be innovative, people weren’t afraid to think that they were the best in the world … Even as a registrar you just felt you were in a place that was completely different to any other hospital I’d worked in.”
Andrew knew he wanted to continue working in paediatric anaesthesia and completed his fellowship at the RCH under the guidance of Dr Kester Brown. He worked overseas before returning to the RCH as a consultant.
The RCH anaesthesia department is extremely well regarded and considered one of the most sought after places to work in Australia. Under Kester Brown, international connections were fostered and overseas consultants were invited to work as fellows or visit the RCH department. “You felt you were part of a global community of paediatric anaesthetists and that you were a valued member of the global community”, recalls Andrew. This continues today. “There’s an enormous degree of working not only within Australia but also reaching out to other paediatric anaesthetists across the world.”
Part of the attraction to this career for Andrew was the research component and the ever-present challenge of achieving better patient outcomes. As well as working in theatre, Andrew is Medical Director of the Melbourne Children’s Trials Centre (MCTC) and involved in research at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI). The relationship between the hospital and MCRI is unique within Australia and provides opportunities for research that are out of reach for many other hospitals. “It’s been a very, very successful partnership”, Andrew describes, “other places are quite envious that they can’t quite get it to work”.
One of Andrew’s current areas of research is in measuring consciousness.
“The job of an anaesthetist is to make someone unconscious and trying to define what consciousness is is tricky, and then trying to measure consciousness is tricky, and then it becomes even harder in children and in babies. An adult, if they’re conscious, will tell you they’re conscious whereas an infant or a baby you can’t ask them to do something and see if they do it. Measuring consciousness is tricky, that’s probably what I’m most interested in.”
“I love going to work”, Andrew reflects. He finds it hard to uncover a reason to leave the RCH. “It’s an institution that I think has lots of qualities that I admire, the striving for excellence … most of my friends are here, it’s a great community.”
Listen to an audio extract from Andrew Davidson’s 2019 oral history interview
Transcription of audio extract:
“There are a lot of people here, they don’t work nine to five, they don’t watch the clock, they just enjoy working and giving. There’s a really big cohort of people here that just give and don’t really ask for much. That’s also something that distinguishes here from other places that I’ve worked or been associated with. It’s actually not uncommon in paediatric hospitals, they tend to attract people that want to be here rather than are being paid to be here … if you work here it’s a much more sort of optimistic forward looking – it’s a totally different atmosphere. I think people like working in that atmosphere. Not many people, I think, come here to work just because they’re paying the rent.”