Dr Ben Butson

Ben gives us a good example of how to forge an interesting and diverse career while still maintaining a life outside of work. Ben worked in Cairns as a Senior Registrar in Emergency Medicine before completing his Fellowship.


Dr Ben Butson


Emergency, Retrieval, Anaesthetics and Military Medicine

How did you get to where you are?

I spent many years as a medical officer in the Australian Army and was very lucky to be deployed overseas on active duty to East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan and Solomon Islands.  During my early years as a doctor I tried to keep my skill-set as broad as I could, with the initial plan of becoming a Rural Generalist.  I spent a couple of years studying Sports Medicine along the way because it was very relevant to my role in the Army.  I obtained relevant rural GP fellowships, including FRACGP, FARGP and FACRRM.  I completed the Joint Consultative Committee for Anaesthesia (JCCA) training program to become a GP Anaesthetist and also undertook an Advanced Rural Skills Training Post in Emergency Medicine.  I have had a long interest in retrieval and pre-hospital medicine and I have worked in these areas in both civilian and military medicine.  Eventually I decided to specialise and Emergency Medicine seemed to be the ‘best fit’ for my personality.  I obtained my FACEM in 2012.  I currently divide my clinical time between Emergency Medicine, Anaesthetics and Retrieval Medicine.  I work 2 days per week in the Emergency Department, one day per week in Anaesthetics and 1 day per week as the Clinical Lead for LifeFlight Retrieval Medicine in Townsville.

What do you like about your role?

Recently the Australian Defence Force started a new program called the Medical Specialist Program whereby trained specialists are employed by the military, but work in the civilian sector to maintain their relevant skill-set.  I was attracted by this scheme because I saw it as a way to continue to serve in the Army, but maintain my skillsets in my chosen fields.  I am currently the only medical specialist employed full-time by the Army.  This means I am the first to be called for interesting jobs that may come up at short notice.  I enjoy the variety in my job and I enjoy the possibility that I may be able to serve overseas in challenging roles again.

What are the challenges?

Sometimes it is a challenge to get enough work done in the day!  I try to keep up to date with the literature, contribute to teaching and research and maintain a positive attitude at work.  But the biggest challenge is always maintaining work-life balance.

Personal life

I have been happily married for 23 years.  Lisa and I have had 3 children who are growing up way too fast!  My eldest boy, Harry is now studying medicine at James Cook University.  My second son, Thomas has been selected to join the Australian Defence Force Academy in 2017 to become an Army Officer.  My daughter, Emily is still in high school.  We have had a privileged life and have travelled extensively as a family, both for work and for fun.  I have taken my family on extended ‘around the world’ trips on several occasions – sometimes for as long as 9 months away.  This has been a terrific experience and has been a very positive influence for the whole family.  We are an active family and enjoy each other’s company.  Three of us ran our first marathon last year!

What would be some tips for a junior doctor on how to get into a training program?

The first thing I would say is you should not hurry to get straight into a training program.  Enjoy the journey – I never heard any dying patient draw their last breath and say they are glad they spent their whole life doing the same job!



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