“Voluntourism” – What to Do (and What Not to Do!)


The value of medical “voluntourism”, a term that describes health professionals travelling to low-resource settings, is a growing debate. There are clear benefits of volunteer work, however it can also inflict harm on the communities it aims to help. The Surgical Students Society of Melbourne (SSSM) presents an expert panel of three consultant surgeons with experience in volunteer work. They will discuss the risks of volunteer work and provide helpful advice on how to ensure responsible and ethical travel.


Associate Professor Kate Drummond AM, MD, MBBS, FRACS

Associate Professor Kate Drummond, AM, MD, MBBS, FRACS, graduated from the University of Sydney in 1988 and trained in Neurosurgery in Sydney and Melbourne. She furthered her training with both clinical and research fellowships in Neuro-oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard University in Boston. She was awarded an MD from the University of Melbourne in 2008. She is Director of Neurosurgery at The Royal Melbourne Hospital and Head of Central Nervous System Tumours for the VCCC Parkville Precinct. Her chief research and clinical interests are in the biology and clinical management of brain tumours. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, many book chapters and is frequently invited to speak nationally and internationally. She serves on a number of national cancer and brain tumour professional and patient groups. She is Neurosurgery Editor of the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience and Chief Examiner in Neurosurgery for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. She is Deputy-Chair of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Section of Women in Surgery, and has received the RACS Medal for Services to RACS. She is Chair of Pangea Global Health Education, a not-for-profit organisation specialising in health education in low resource settings. In 2019 she was awarded Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for services to medicine, particularly in the field of neuro-oncology and community health.

Dr Sean Stevens

Sean Stevens is a general surgeon living in Melbourne with an interest in surgical education and global health. Sean’s initial and eye-opening experience of ‘volunteerism’ occurred while working with a charity organisation in Kenya as a medical student. He subsequently completed a Master in Public Health and Master of Surgical Education. He is currently undertaking a PhD investigating the challenges of surgical education in low-income countries. Sean is also involved in surgical education at Austin Hospital and is working as a general surgeon in Colac.


Associate Professor Julian Rait 

Associate Professor Julian Rait is a specialist Ophthalmologist and the President of the Australian Medical Association in Victoria. He also Chairs the Council of Private Specialist Practice for the Federal AMA, and has been a fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors since 2007. Julian has also been appointed to several leadership positions within the medical indemnity insurance industry including (currently) being on the Board of the Avant Foundation and the Avant National Advocacy Stakeholder Committee while previously serving as a Board member and Chairman of MDA National until 2014. On Australia Day 2018, Julian was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for “service to Ophthalmology and to the development of Overseas Aid”.