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Best friend’s death leads Canadian Catholic to become a doctor in Queensland

Dr Christian Fuschini: “It’s always rewarding being able to help someone. You can’t help everyone but you try.”

CHRISTIAN Fuschini’s best friend died when they were teenagers, and that’s when he decided what he wanted to do with his life.

“The reason why I became a doctor was because I lost my best friend to brain cancer at the age of 18,” Christian said.

“I actually have a tattoo on my back for him; it’s just a cross with hockey skates …

“We used to play ice hockey together.

“So, when I was in university, that’s why I pursued medicine.”

From growing up in a place where they play ice hockey, Dr Fuschini recently had a stint at Blackall Hospital in Central West Queensland, where it’s been unbelievably hot and dry.

“I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and went to a Catholic private school in downtown Toronto,” he said on his return to Brisbane.

“And after high school I went on a scholarship to McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.”

That’s where he completed four years of undergraduate studies in preparation for medical school, and fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor in memory of his friend Daniel Bertoia.

“He got diagnosed with brain cancer when we were in high school, and then he died before we all went to university,” Christian said.

That was when Christian decided he wanted to be a doctor.

“Initially, like, you know, you’re young, you don’t maybe necessarily understand everything that had to do with (Daniel’s) illness,” he said.

“Like, you’re of course, ‘I’m going to discover a cure for brain cancer …’, which is admirable at the time, but as you get older …

“But, yeah, that’s probably why I did it … I think so. “Obviously when you get into medicine it’s a bit more complicated than that.”

As time went on it was a case of becoming a doctor to do good for others.

And that has led him to Redcliffe Hospital, north of Brisbane, and recently to Blackall.

His search for the best place for him to study medicine led him to Queensland.

After finishing his undergraduate studies in Canada, medical school was the next step.

“I applied everywhere … the University of Queensland, at the time when I was accepted, was the 30th-best medical school in the world, so it’s well renowned internationally,” Christian said.

“So, I chose to come to Australia.”

He made the big move as a 23-year-old and started medical school in January, 2014.

“That was probably the best decision I ever made, for sure,” he said.

He loved “the people, the culture, the weather … it’s been a great experience”.

But it’s been tough, especially in the beginning.

“Because you get here, you’re away from your family (and) for me, family’s very important; I come from an Italian background,” he said.

“My grandparents emigrated from Italy to Canada … in Italian culture, family’s big, and not having that aspect of my life, is tough.”

More than making up for that is the fact that Christian has met his fiancé Brielle McCann since coming to Brisbane.

It was through going to Mass at St Joseph’s, Bracken Ridge, with Brielle and her grandfather Max McCann that Christian first heard about Blackall.

St Joseph’s has a sister parish arrangement with Blackall.

Redcliffe Hospital, where Christian works, has an agreement with Central West, “so that’s Longreach, Barcaldine, Winton, Blackall, Tambo … we supply the doctors to go out there”.

“And, then, literally by coincidence, I was going to St Joseph’s Church and they started talking about Blackall,” he said.

“Initially, I thought ‘What’s going on? This is a bit weird, right?’

“It was literally just coincidence.

“When we were going to church, they were always talking about it, and then (Redcliffe Hospital) gave us the option, ‘Where do you want to go – Longreach, Barcaldine, Blackall …?’

“I said, ‘Yeah. Let’s go to Blackall.’”

He’d never been to the outback.

“No, never. I’m a city boy,” he said.

He said it was a shock, especially since the region was in the middle of one of its worst droughts.

“It’s hot; it’s crazy hot. It’s like walking into a wall … of heat,” he said.

“(But) it was great. I loved it.

“The community was really happy to have me, really supported me while I was there. It was great.”

He loved it so much he’s asked to go back for another five weeks soon.

It’s all part of medical residency, doing 10-week rotations in different departments to “determine what aspect in medicine you want to get into”.

Experiencing the severe drought was like nothing Christian had seen before.

“We have snow in Canada so we’ve always got a little bit of water,” he said.

And he saw what a difference a little rain could make.

“When I left we had a huge storm … and everyone was so happy,” he said.

“You could just see everyone walking into the hospital; they had a little bit more of a step to them. It was good.”

Professionally, his biggest challenge was having to work long hours.

“You’re working six days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day. Over 10 weeks it’s a lot,” Christian said.

“You’re tired, and then when you start getting tired you have to be careful because it affects your decision-making and you get to points when you’re just so exhausted that something you would normally know the answer to without even thinking, well, you can’t even think about it.

“I think that’s when you have to step away and say something …”

Sleep and exercise were the answer.

“I think all the time. I’m always thinking about, ‘Could I have done something better?’, ‘Could I have approached that situation differently?’,” Christian said.

“So you try and forget about that for a couple of hours, get a good night’s sleep, try not to ruminate too much when you’re falling asleep, and then just get ready for the next day.”

Faith plays a part too.

“I think when it comes to faith, for me, it’s just treat others how you want to be treated and be good and, generally speaking, try and do what’s best and what’s good and what’s right,” Christian said.

“I apply that to medicine, I apply that to life and so far everything’s worked out.

“I think I have a deep connection with God and I know I have this unconditional faith that I know He’s doing whatever He can to contribute to my life and, as long as I continue to do good in my life, it’ll all just go well, I hope.”

As for what area of medicine to choose, Christian said he liked working with children, “especially when it comes to sports and injuries and stuff like that”.

“I think I’ll go into that. I haven’t decided yet either if I’m going to continue pursuing orthopaedic surgery or family medicine,” he said.

“I have to decide soon but I think you just have to do what you love.

“You have to make sure that you enjoy every day going to work, because you’re going to be doing it for a long time.

“And medicine’s great in the sense that you’re always helping people.

“It’s always rewarding being able to help someone. You can’t help everyone but you try.” 

Written by: Peter Bugden
Catholic Church Insurance

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