Tuesday 14 April 2020


Dr David Mitchell - How I got involved with Cambodian Radiology and RAB

Report by: David Mitchell

“At Radiology Across Borders, we are very fortunate to have many passionate volunteers who commit their pro bono time and expertise to help their colleagues in nations throughout the globe. In “Our World“, we want to profile some of these volunteers to thank them and to get an insight into what doing this work means to them. One such dedicated volunteer who personifies everything about what Radiology Across Borders is about is Dr David Mitchell. We are very grateful for his support and expertise.“ Dr Suresh de Silva - Founder

Dr David Mitchell - How I got involved with Cambodian Radiology and RAB


I first went to Cambodia to the capital Phnom Penh in July 2015, looking for something that would use my Radiology training and experience in an interesting, stimulating and perhaps fulfilling way. It also provided an opportunity for some travel in an interesting region. 

I was able to attend Sihanouk Hospital, Centre of Hope, which treats poor people for nothing or for a very small fee. It is funded by a charity and has many visiting international doctors and nurses. They recognised my Australian qualifications to accredit me as a visiting Specialist for two weeks. Phnom Penh is hot, very hot, and has a confronting mix of visible poverty and terrible traffic jams of Lexus 4WD’s and luxury cars. Rows of roughly clothed people sat patiently for hours under a high roof projecting in the garden at the front of the hospital waiting for their turn to be questioned at an open table in full view about their relative wealth to determine whether they qualify for free care.

There was a Radiology Department with x-ray, ultrasound and CT. Among the Radiologists was Dr Chea Chandy who was Secretary of the Cambodian Association of Radiology (CAR) and another young Radiologist Dr Sandy Oeng. I had taken a big bag of out of date needles that were put to use, particularly under ultrasound. I was able to do a lot of lectures and tutorials with the Radiology trainees who at that time numbered about 12 and had a 3-year training program. We saw a lot of interesting pathologies, particularly in CT. It was very advanced pathology by Australian standards, although the treatment options were very limited, with people often returning to the village to be looked after by their family for whatever time they had remaining. 

We all developed a good relationship and enjoyed lunches and dinners, a visit to the Cambodian national theatre and a cruise on the Mekong River.

The following year, 2016, was my first visit with Radiology Across Borders (RAB). After a first very positive experience I wanted to return and thought that doing that as part of an organisation would bring more resources and be more effective. I liked the philosophy that RAB expresses and joined. With Drs Greg Briggs and Jim Mullany, we gave a lecture series mainly to the Radiology trainees and this was co-ordinated by my contact with Dr Chandy, the Secretary of the CAR. I met the President and Vice President of the CAR at a great rooftop dinner.

The following year, 2017, we gave a lecture series in coordination with the CAR, which was the first RAB and CAR collaboration.

In 2018, in combination with the CAR, we had a meeting at the Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh and were joined by sonographers from the ASA who provided hands-on training for attendees, which was very welcome.

In 2019, we provided a musculoskeletal series in conjunction with CAR, AMSIG and RAB which included the Professor from The University of British Columbia, and sonographers. 

We have had three Radiologists visit from Cambodia to the Gold Coast University Hospital for observerships which they have all enjoyed and found very worthwhile.

On these visits, I have been able to combine some travel, accompanied by my wife, within Cambodia to Siem Reap and an island in the Gulf of Thailand, Song Saa, and with visits to neighbouring countries Vietnam and Thailand. With my daughter, I travelled to the south to the Tatai river to a jungle lodge. 

The connections with our colleagues in other countries are probably the most important thing that comes out of all of this. The younger Radiologists who visited maintain contact and exchange cases and queries with some of the Radiologists they met.

Over multiple visits and this time, people who were trainees at the time of my first visit have become Radiologists at various hospitals in Phnom Penh. The relationship with the President and Secretary of the CAR has strengthened. My understanding of the conditions and requirements in Cambodia has increased. The facilities in Cambodia are advancing rapidly. The radiologists’ skills are advancing and on our last trip, there was a lot of interest from the radiologists in learning Ultrasound-guided injection technique. Musculoskeletal imaging is a relatively new area expanding rapidly in their practices. 

A meeting was planned for July 2020 with a predominately gastroenterological and genitourinary content in conjunction with ARGANZ, RAB and CAR. The organising committee includes young radiologists who were trainees at the time of my first visit. This meeting is postponed due to COVID 19.

I have seen a lot, and learned a lot, about the world and people and myself. I would strongly recommend this type of involvement to anyone with a curiosity to look at the world in a new way.