Travis Ackermann is a Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic (HPB) Surgery Fellow at Monash Health. He had always wanted to be a doctor.

"I remember my grandmother used to say to me she wanted a doctor in the family. There is a small subliminal component to that, which may have planted a seed of thought."

It has taken Travis close to 17 years of study to get to where he is today.

Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic (HPB) Surgery Fellow, Travis Ackermann.

Background

Qualification: Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Biomedical Sciences)

Job: Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic (HPB) Surgery Fellow

Early career and VU support

Having undergone chemotherapy at 17, which required him to complete his VCE from the hospital bed, Travis thought his dream had all but ended when he got his VCE score of  61.75.

Travis applied to a number of courses at various universities but didn't get into any of them. He credits VU for seeing beyond his mark and providing a door to opportunity, enabling him to achieve his dream.

"When VU accepted me, I think that was the most excited I have ever been. Opening that letter, they wanted me to be there. I’ve always been grateful to VU for giving me the opportunity because without that I wouldn’t be sitting here, doing what I’m doing."

Travis travelled an hour and a half by train each way to St Albans Campus from Narre Warren for four years - four of his most memorable years. He won best first year, second year and third year awards and was the best Honors student.

Career in medicine

With outstanding results from his undergraduate degree, Travis received an offer to do medicine and surgery at ANU and a scholarship to do a PhD at VU; he accepted the former to pursue his passion.

"I had a couple of dinners that were organised by the College of Health and Biomedicine and I remember sitting at the table with a few of my supervisors. Dr Alan Hayes sat with my late grandmother and I was so happy seeing how proud she was sitting there at the dinner."

Providing sad news to families can sometimes hit close to home, presenting a considerable challenge surgeons. Travis recalls speaking to families in preparation for end-of-life arrangements and experiencing emotions from his own grandmother's death. Being a surgeon requires objectivity, a cool head and the right temperament. Travis' personal experiences help provide the right balance to do, or say, what must sometimes be done, or said.

Travis is undergoing further training for specialisation in HPB surgery.
 
"I’ve also been cancer free now for 16 years. After 10 years, in medicine, you’re thought of as cured. Even though it was difficult at the time, I reflect on it fondly as I was able to learn about myself and it's spurred me on to do bigger and better things."
 
From his days in anatomy class at St Albans Campus to completing over 800 surgeries to date, Travis urges his fellow alumni to

"aim the bar high, and just go for your dream".