Fix hearts in Far North Queensland


A YOUNG boy travels with his grandfather, who only speaks Italian with some broken English, from the family tobacco farm in Mareeba, 1800km to Brisbane.
The journey happens regularly for little Anthony Brazzale and his grandfather Guido Brazzale as Anthony’s parents cannot leave the farm, but Guido needs to visit his electrophysiologist in Brisbane and needs help communicating with his doctors.
It was a time in his life that made such an imprint on young Anthony’s mind, that it set his course for life – he set out to, and became, a cardiologist, inspired by his grandfather. “All he wanted was to see me graduate and I did that in 2008 – he died shortly thereafter,” Dr Brazzale says.
Dr Brazzale’s medical studies were conducted through JCU Cairns and Townsville, before he travelled to Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and Melbourne to further his education. “My wish is to add to what’s here, we have a fabulous cardiology team and my aim is to work with this incredible team to grow what we have and bring world-class services here,” Dr Brazzale said.
It is ironic that his colleague, Cairns Hospital director of cardiology Dr Greg Starmer, also hails from the Mareeba tobacco industry. His father worked for the tobacco growers organisation for most of his working life but Greg’s interest in medicine came about through typical boyhood injuries. As a child, Anthony competed against Greg’s “little” brother Alex in athletics and often went away together. The pair were fierce rivals and very good friends, and still are.
“I did all the usual things that boys do, ended up in hospital, and the doctors would patch me up,” Dr Starmer said. “I always planned to go back to the Tablelands as a rural GP, but I met my wife in Brisbane and while she was furthering her studies, the director of cardiology at the Princess Alexandra Hospital suggested I might have a future in interventional cardiology,” he said.
Ironically, Dr Starmer’s grandfather also died of a heart attack. “Well before the technology that we have today. I was only young but it certainly stuck with me.” “The biggest thing for me when I went away to study 20 years ago, was seeing the standard of health care in Brisbane compared to what I knew we had in Far North Queensland,” he said.
Dr Starmer and many of the cardiac unit always fundraise for and take part in the annual Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge, a fundraiser for cardiac services in the Far North. He plans to take Dr Brazzale and another new cardiologist shopping for bicycles in the next few weeks.
Far North Queensland Hospital Foundation fundraising and marketing manager Glenys Duncombe said the event made a real difference not only in terms of the equipment it had brought to the region, but also to the lives of participants. “We have many people taking part, who we can see it’s changed their life. They’re healthier and fitter and leading a more active lifestyle and that’s a big part of cardiac health too,” Ms Duncombe said.
Registrations close for the 11th Mount Franklin Cardiac Challenge on July 31. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Photo: Anthony Brazzale aged 16 with his grandfather Guido Brazzale.

Photo: Cairns Hospital interventional cardiologists Dr Greg Starmer and Dr Anthony Brazzale both hail from Mareeba.


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