HealthFusion champ’s inspiring tale

21 Nov 2016

From spinal fusion to a national HealthFusion champion – it’s been a whirlwind four years for graduating University of Queensland student Kirsten Cusack.

This month Kirsten fulfilled her final commitments of the Bachelor of Social Work, a rewarding journey that has seen her undergo a complete change in career direction.

“I originally wanted to be a physiotherapist, then in grade 12 I had a pretty major operation – spinal fusion,” Ms Cusack said.

“I was lucky at the time to have plenty of family support, but it got me thinking perhaps people are too focused on a medical diagnosis and not what happens to your life during and after being through an experience like that.

“A person is more than their physical health, though of course that is very important as well.”

The former  Noosa District High School student’s aptitude for social work led her lecturers to recommend her for UQ’s HealthFusion Team Challenge squad in 2016.

Now three-time successive national titleholders, UQ has a proud record in the  event, which encourages star undergraduate health professionals to collaborate across specialities.

Each team is judged on a hypothetical situation where a patient with complex needs requires an individualised, gold-standard action plan for treatment.

“This year’s HealthFusion Team Challenge incorporated a very large social work element in respect to a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Ms Cusack said.

“Everyone had an important role to play, but it was nice to see social work influential in the outcome.

“Our team coordinator, Dr Emma Beckman, was so welcoming and she gave us the perfect instructions on how to handle the challenge.

“We only met as a team three times before the event and then on the day I thought ‘Wow, we have all come together so quickly and cleverly’.”

Kirsten’s teammates, who she described as “fantastic”, were Elizabeth Bartetzko from nursing and midwifery, Courtney Carter from physiotherapy, Caitlin Hall from dietetics, Catherine Smith from occupational therapy and Mika Varitimos from pharmacy.

She says she hopes to cross paths with them all in the future as they progress in their fields.

This semester Kirsten has been on on placement in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Information on studying a Bachelor of Social Work at UQ can be found  here.

Media: UQ Communications Robert Burgin,, +617 3346 3035, +61 0448 410 364.