Sky’s the limit for spirited Mater flying neurosurgeon Martin Wood

Brisbane’s very own flying neurosurgeon Dr Martin Wood has been taking Mater healthcare services to new heights across Queensland amidst the global pandemic.

As part of the Mater Centre for Neuroscience, Dr Wood is a consultant neurosurgeon at Mater Children’s Private Brisbane and Mater Private Hospital Brisbane, and also consults at Queensland Children’s Hospital.

For the past 15 years, Dr Wood, a doctor at Brisbane Clinical Neuroscience Centre, has been flying himself to outreach clinics in regional areas including Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Lismore and Noosa, caring for young and old patients who cannot travel to Brisbane for consultations.

The 49-year-old aviator, who flies a six-seater, twin-engine Beechcraft Baron aircraft, said he felt “lucky” to be able to provide a healthcare service to regional patients which was easy to access and valuable.

“Being able to treat patients during COVID-19 uninterrupted was critical,” Dr Wood said.

“Some patients were unable to make appointments in Brisbane, and so we went to them. That helped alleviate stress on our patients.”

Dr Wood said his regional day-trips typically involve leaving his home around 5.45am, making his way to Archerfield and hitting the sky by 7am, before returning by 7pm.

“I consult with patients who have spinal disc prolapses, skull base brain tumours, peripheral nerve or spinal cord problems, even fetal spina bifida cases, and where necessary, help prepare them for surgery in Brisbane,” Dr Wood said.  

 “It’s a busy day, and I can often see up to 30 patients. Knowing I can be in front of them and being able to talk to them face-to-face is nice.”

Dr Wood, a father-of-four, performed Australia’s first intrauterine surgery for spina bifida with Dr Glenn Gardener in 2016 and has pioneered the use of minimally invasive techniques for spinal surgery since the early 2000s.

Having clocked up thousands of hours in the sky, Dr Wood’s passion for flying started when he was just 15 years old while living in Scotland, where he received a flying scholarship with the Royal Air Force.

Dr Wood is sometimes accompanied by his colleagues to treat patients including neurosurgeon Dr Jason McMillen, ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr James Bowman and pain medicine physician and specialist anaesthetist Dr Josh Daly.

When Dr Wood is not in an operating theatre, or up in the sky, he is busy handcrafting boutique spirits at Kitty Hawk Distillery, a small Brisbane craft distillery company, which he co-owns.

From apple brandy to citrus and spice infused gin, and now the release of Brisbane’s first single malt whisky, Dr Wood said his hobbies away from the hospital were just as rewarding as medicine, and helped to keep life interesting.

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