Q&A with Matthew MacPartlin

Dr Matthew MacPartlin is a dual qualified intensivist and emergency physician. Originally from Dublin, he now lives in Sydney and works in Wollongong. He has an interest in sports and exercise medicine and for over twenty years has put all of these skills to use as a motorsport medic, working with Formula 1, the World Rally Championship, Australian Supercars and the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. He will be facilitating the Challenging Airways workshop at SSEM22.

Questions and Answers

Are you a safe driver?

Err… You’d have to ask somebody else. If you’re asking whether there are big holes in the dashboard where passengers have gripped mercilessly for fear of death… well most people get out of the car feeling like they have gotten from A to B in a reasonably intact state.

What does a motorsport medic actually do?

For a long time it would have been fairly undefined. It aligns well with event medicine, it’s largely looking after competitors, officials, spectators and everybody else who is at a motorsport event. Emergency physicians fit naturally into it, because there’s that mixture of clinical care, administration, logistics, being able to work in challenging environments. You can be involved in any component, whether the medic in the chase car, track side, pit lane, medical centre, through to event planning and asset management from race control.

Could all that be done by paramedics?

Absolutely, there are components. It’s right in their domain, it parallels what they do every day as part of their job. Doctors come with a specific skill set and a particular knowledge base, which fills a gap, but they are also hampered by a particular outlook. There’s often a level of expectation where doctors walk into that environment, because they’ve got D and R in front of their name. But it takes time and training. I suspect the time that it took me to get good at it was a lot longer than it would have taken a paramedic.

EV or ICE?

Depends on what you want. If you are a die hard motorsport fan it’s about the noise, the atmosphere, the smell of petrol in the air. There’s a show element. But electric vehicles are the way we are going. EVs have endless torque that gives you acceleration, which is that thrill aspect. 

Do you play any instruments?


Are you deaf?

No, actually that’s something that I have made some conscious decisions about. I have my own moulded ear plugs to make sure I can still hear things when I get to 75 or 85.

Is there any point in doing dual training in 2022?

I do think it has a role. As an individual, I get a lot out of being dual trained. It has helped me to become a more rounded, more aware physician who is prepared to see things from another perspective. But it’s about intent. If you are doing it to hedge your bets, to cover… well maybe I won’t get an ICU job but at least I can fall back on ED or anaesthetics… that’s the wrong reason. It should be a proactive choice. There seems to be a trend to move very rapidly into a specialist training pathway which risks a narrow view of the world. That’s fine for producing a specialist, but it doesn’t necessarily produce a doctor or a human. We shouldn’t be in the game of producing machines who are suited to only one task.

What is your favourite airway trick?

McCoy blade. Before VL arrived.

Scariest career moment?

Realising that I was now the person carrying the responsibility and there wasn’t anybody else further up the chain. Now, if it all goes horribly wrong, it’s all on me. It was in intensive care. I was still pretty early in my career, with a relatively junior vascular consultant. We had a particularly sick patient who had been brought into the unit and both of us recognised that this guy’s leg just needed to come off, and he wasn’t going to make it to theatre. This needed to happen soon. Like within the next 20 minutes. And we decided that this was going to happen in the ICU.

Did he live?

He did.

What’s your favourite home gadget?

My 3D printer. I tread a balanced line between 3D printing evangelism versus… what is this new fangled tool that’s just wasting our time? It’s got roles in education and training, diagnostics, therapeutics… you can literally print a biological structure and infuse stem cells into it, potentially transformative for transplant medicine. It’s definitely got a role in medical education. I’ve printed different versions of cric trainers, bronchoscopy trainers….

Have you ever knitted?





I don’t think so. Unless you count certain forms of suturing.

Matthew MacPartlin will be facilitating at the Spring Seminar on Emergency Medicine, Noosa, 18-21 October 2022

Spring Seminar on Emergency Medicine

Noosa, 18-21 October 2022

Jo is an emergency medicine specialist based on the Sunshine Coast. He has qualifications in high fidelity simulation, aeromedical retrieval and point of care ultrasound, and a special interest in educational videography | @FlippEM |

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