FIFTY years in any profession is a great achievement.
And that’s exactly what local radiographer Kees Quinten achieved earlier this year.
It was a double celebration for the head radiographer at Shoalhaven Medical Imaging [SMI], who also racked up 30 years of service in the Shoalhaven.
It has been a long and varied journey before he called the area home, including growing up in Holland, living in Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, where his father was an agricultural adviser before migrating to Australia in 1961 upon his father’s death.
There was a stint in the army, called up through conscription, working in private practices in Melbourne, a time in the UK working at a number of hospitals as well as undertaking forensic and veterinary work, before heading to outback Australia and working at Tenant Creek.
A job opportunity in Bowral bought him back to the coast and he spent a number of years establishing private practices in south east NSW before settling at SMI 13 years ago.
Upon completing his schooling in Melbourne, he started his training at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in January 1964.
“I was reasonably good at physics and my headmaster suggested I have a look at the Royal Melbourne X–ray department that had all the latest equipment and I was sucked in,” he said.
“We would work all day and also study at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology [RMIT], completing the Australian Institute of radiographers course, the forerunner to the university courses.”
After graduation he was conscripted into the army for two years of military service, but was luckily based at the 1 Military Hospital in Brisbane, where he was also able to use his radiography skills.
He also got to witness firsthand some of the shocking injuries Australian servicemen were sustaining in Vietnam, treating many of them when they returned.
“I gained a wealth of experience there,” he said.
Another six months at the Royal Melbourne to “re-acclimatise to civvy street” and he headed off to a number of private practices in Melbourne, where he worked until 1979.
For the next 14 months he was in the UK, working at several hospitals, and undertaking forensic and veterinary work.
“The forensic work was fascinating. We were X-raying artworks to ensure they were legitimate and didn’t have anything hidden in or behind them,” he said.
“I had no idea some of the works we were working with were valued at £200,000.”
When he returned to Australia, he was looking for a change of pace and headed to the outback, spending a year in Tennant Creek.
“That was a real eye-opener,” he said.
“At one stage we were the only radiographers between Alice Springs and Katherine.”
Work then attracted him to the local area, with a job in Bowral and then establishing private practices on the coast.
“Hard to believe that was 30 years ago,” he said.
In 50 years he has seen the technology transformed.
“The advances have been amazing – ultrasound, CT scans, MRI scans – and things are still improving and evolving,” he said.
“When I first started we used to take the X-ray and then develop our own films, but now the digital age has certainly made it a safer workplace – we are no longer handling chemicals and it is so much quicker.
“Things have come so far – it would take at least 10-12 minutes once you took your film to get them developed – now we hit a button and it’s almost instantaneous.
“There have been so many advances since both world wars, both technology and medical wise.
“We really only had two dimensional images, none of the 3D stuff we can get today.
“The skill level of the radiography report on the film relied on the ability of the radiographer to produce a diagnostic image.
“The internet now is a great tool for us; it allows us to easily and quickly access and exchange information regarding accurate diagnosis of disease.
“Technology allows us to investigate and diagnose disease where previously it could be very complex to discover.
“It’s been an incredible ride.”
Where will it all end up?
“I don’t know – but we have come that far that I could certainly envisage a time where you get into a telephone box like contraption and it will undertake a full body scan and automatically undertake a diagnosis,” he said.