There aren’t too many people who know exactly what they want to do with their life at the age of five. But for Gastroenterologist A/Prof Edmund Tse (or Eddie as he would prefer), the decision was an easy one. As the son of a nurse, he remembers fondly going into work with his dad and seeing the positive impact he was having on people’s lives.
“I remember going to the hospital fondly when I was young. I was fascinated by the place and how it helped people and how my dad was able to, through his work, reach out to so many patients and help improve their lives,” Eddie says.
“My dad was a neurology nurse… I still remember going in there and using all the Atari games because they used them in rehabilitation, so I remember going in there and playing Pacman on the weekends. It was something I looked forward to and really enjoyed.
“I loved it and associated all these great times with going to the hospital.”
A local boy who grew up in Campbelltown and still lives in the area, Eddie went to East Marden Primary school and was fortunate enough to get into medicine after graduating from Norwood Morialta High School. He then undertook his physician training at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, which convinced him he wanted to pursue a career in Gastroenterology, because it is one of few areas where you can say that you saved someone’s life as a result of your actions.
“I’ve always wanted to do internal medicine… but there are very few areas in internal medicine where you can confidently say what you did for that patient, at that point in time, saved their life, like stopping a bleeding peptic ulcer for instance.
“I also work at the RAH as part of a Haematemsis and Melaena roster, and we deal with patients vomiting blood as emergency cases. These patients would come in in dire straits, and because of what I do I can, one, save their life there and then, and two, avoid a major operation.
“So it’s a really satisfying thing… I can confidently say I did something special for this patient.”
Eddie also loves the breadth of the work he gets to do as a Gastroenterologist, which includes everything from treating people managing chronic liver disease, to screening for bowel cancer, to leading research designed to improve patient care and patient outcomes. The best part of this job, however, is seeing his patients get better.
“Seeing a sick patient improve at the end of the day, which is the ultimate goal of everything that we do, that’s the most rewarding thing.
“When they get better so they are no longer losing weight, not having a copious amount of symptoms like diarrhoea or pain that impedes their quality of life… (getting them) to a condition that is manageable is really rewarding.”
Eddie says the key to being a good Gastroenterologist is taking the time to speak to patients and understand what their concerns are.
“When you do things over and over it’s possible to fall into a trap of providing a service without really speaking to patients about why they are sitting across the desk in the first place,” Eddie said.
“So hearing patients concerns from their point of view and addressing those issues is important.
“When a patient comes to see us because they have a lot of diarrhoea, as doctors, we are more concerned about a diagnosis of bowel cancer, but from a patient’s perspective they are more concerned about how this impacts their lives. They may not be able to work or enjoy their time… if you have excluded bowel cancer that’s great, but they are still left with their problem which is equally important to manage.
“So to really understand what is impacting the patient I think is the hardest part sometimes of what we do.
“A large number of patients with chronic conditions have made their way to my clinic and still not really known much about their illness. A lot of conditions are unfortunately not curative, requiring long term management. There is nothing more powerful than a patient understanding what their problem is so that they can manage it themselves adequately.”