Professor Peter Macdonald has been helping at the Condobolin Aboriginal Medical Centre for over a decade. (ABC News: Monique Schafter)
Cardiologist Peter Macdonald is world renowned as a pioneer of the life-changing heart in a box.
The revolutionary technique means donor hearts that have stopped beating can be reactivated on a machine for up to 12 hours and transplanted into a patient.
“We did the first of these transplants in 2014 and we were the first unit in the world to do this,” Professor Macdonald told 7.30.
“Globally, there’s around 5,000 heart transplants performed per year and we expect that this will possibly allow another 1,000 transplants.”
Despite his high profile and international reputation, Professor Macdonald is also working quietly to improve the health of Australia’s Indigenous population.
‘A nice change to working in the big city hospital’
Every six weeks or so he flies out to the Condobolin Aboriginal Medical Centre, in central-western New South Wales, to look after the health needs of the locals.
Centre manager Katie Worthington said Professor Macdonald had been coming since 2006.
“We have this long-standing joke with Peter that he’s the longest-standing doctor in rural Condobolin because, you know, doctors come and go, but Peter’s been coming for over 10 years,” she told 7.30.
It all began 12 years ago, when an Aboriginal patient and his wife told Professor Macdonald about the lack of medical services in Condobolin.
“She was the one who approached me and said there’s basically nothing out at Condobolin, certainly no specialist services, and would I be prepared to come out and do a clinic there,” Professor Macdonald said.
“I said, ‘Yeah, it’d be a nice change to working in the big city hospital on a daily basis’.
“So I flew out for the first time in December 2006.”
‘You can see the health benefits’
Anna Dargin was one of Peter Macdonald’s first patients in Condobolin. (ABC News: Monique Schafter)
Anna Dargin was one of Professor Macdonald’s first patients and she still sees him regularly.
“We need someone to come in like this here, to do all the things, the treatment here rather than having to go away,” she told 7.30.
“It was a real treat seeing him today.”
Professor Macdonald said: “I’m seeing patients that I’ve seen many years in the past and it’s good to see them come back.
“And you can see the benefits in their health over the long term.”
He sees the Condobolin work as an opportunity to give back.
“As a group, the Indigenous population tend to have … more coronary risk factors, and they tend to develop coronary artery disease and heart disease at a younger age,” he said.
“They are seriously disadvantaged and, as you know, we’ve got this awful gap in life expectancy between the Aboriginal community and non-Indigenous Australians.
“What I do coming out here won’t solve this problem but at least it’s something. It’s an attempt to try and address the problem.”