Our volunteer medical team

Dr Noel Bayley AM

Honorary medical adviser

How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

I first went to East Timor in 2000, the year after independence. I'd been interested for some time in doing some pro bono work in the developing world.

I think, like many middle class Australians, I have a sense of being absurdly privileged in comparison to most of the world's citizens, through no virtue of my own. It seems to me that the least I can do is to try in some small measure to share my good fortune.

Initially I was involved with a small clinic in the hills above Gleno, southwest of Dili, and apart from helping out in the clinic there, my wife Yve and I became involved in supporting a clean water project for the local community. That has led to a continuing interest in similar projects in East Timor, in cooperation with friends from the Rotary movement in Warrnambool, who share our passion for providing simple infrastructure which profoundly changes people's quality of life and health prospects.

It became apparent to me that there was a large burden of untreated cardiac disease in East Timor, a great deal of it due to rheumatic fever, a destructive disease of the heart valves resulting from skin infections in early childhood.

Since the assessment and treatment of heart disease is my principal area of professional expertise, I decided to get involved in diagnosing and arranging surgery for young adults with conditions readily treatable in Australia, but leading to inevitable death at a young age with the available resources in East Timor.


What does your role entail?

I have made about 30 trips to East Timor over the years; have had the privilege of seeing many patients (hundreds, at this point) with cardiac disease, and the real joy of being able, with the generosity of colleagues and hospitals in Australia, to arrange curative surgery for a significant number of young adults. 

In many ways, the work I do in Timor parallels my Australian professional life. But I see the opportunity to use my skills in an unpaid capacity, especially in East Timor where, I believe Australians have a real responsibility to help, as one of the great joys and privileges of my life.

Quite apart from the fact that the Timorese are our nearest neighbours, and thus have a strong claim on our generosity, anybody who takes the trouble to read the history of the Australian involvement in the Second World War would, I believe, agree that there is a debt to be paid.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

Outside my professional life, I have the delight of a family, including my wife Yve who has been the powerhouse in the ongoing clean water projects and an enthusiastic supporter of the cardiac services.

I have two children Kate and Nic; Nic also has been involved in helping with clinics.

I am a keen bushwalker, gardener, not too bad a cook, and love good literature and music with a very Catholic taste in both.


Read about Dr Noel Bayley's Queen's Birthday award 

A big heart for helping others brings Queen's Birthday honour, Warrnambool Standard, 11 June 2018 

Dr Josh Francis

Rheumatic heart disease adviser

How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

I have been working alongside health providers in Timor-Leste since 2013. People's lives are affected by so much tragedy in Timor-Leste, and as a paediatrician I see too many children and young people suffer and die, often from preventable, treatable conditions. Rheumatic heart disease provides a stark illustration of this kind of tragedy, and the memory of children I have cared for, who don't survive into adulthood, will never leave me. Rheumatic heart disease affects Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory, and Timorese children in Timor-Leste, at rates that are higher than just about anywhere else in the world. It has become a huge part of my work.

In 2016 I worked closely with East Timor Hearts Fuynd to conduct the first ever rheumatic heart disease prevalence study in Timor-Leste, which has helped us to define the burden of rheumatic heart disease, and plan together on strategies to fight it.


What does your role entail?

I work with East Timor Hearts Fund to develop strategic ways of working on the prevention and management of rheumatic heart disease in Timor-Leste.


What are your passions and interests outside work?


Family. I am blessed with a wife and four kids, a big extended family, and an even bigger church family. Our house is rarely quiet. The lines between work and home blur for us quite a bit, and the kids love going to Timor-Leste, exploring its beauty, and helping out with projects just as much as I do.

Dr Liz Paratz

Cardiology registrar

How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

As a medical registrar rotating to Warrnambool Hospital several years ago, I worked for Dr Noel Bayley. I was inspired by the massive amount of work he has put into creating ETHF, and the grit and dedication of the whole team over many years to save lives.

As an advanced trainee in cardiology, it has been a perfect fit for me to join the team on multiple trips to Timor-Leste to run clinics and assist with research. It's a privilege and an honour working with the East Timor Hearts Fund team, and I can say with certainty that the clinical experience I've gained in East Timor will make me a far better cardiologist.


What does your role entail?

I am part of the volunteer medical team working in the clinics assessing patients. I interview and examine patients, then perform echocardiograms (heart ultrasounds). We would typically see hundreds of patients in an East Timor Hearts Fund visit over several days.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

I love learning languages, and am trying to learn some phrases in Tetum. After being laughed at by lots of Timorese children, I have discovered that my name 'Liz' is very similar to 'liis' which is Tetum for onion! I am also slowly cooking my way through my much-loved Ottolenghi cookbooks, and love any chance to travel with my fiance Bruce.


Dr Ari Horton

Paediatric cardiology fellow

How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

As a paediatric cardiac specialist I was asked to join East Timor Hearts Fund’s volunteer medical team to improve the capacity for care of children and education of local staff and families. Since participating in my first screening visit to Timor-Leste in 2017 I have become passionate about this work and have visited Timor-Leste numerous times. It has been eye-opening to see the vast health differences between Australia and its neighbour, as well as the absolute spirit, determination and joy of the Timorese people. 

What does your role entail?

I look after the heart health of children up to 18 years old. I specialise in congenital and inherited heart disease for all ages, as well as having a specific interest in rheumatic heart disease. I like to get to know the patients and their families and I support them to control symptoms, improve quality of life and, if possible, have surgery in Australia.

I'm involved in clinical research, the penicillin program and follow-up of rheumatic heart disease patients. I firmly believe in education, capacity building, empowerment and collaboration with local services and I enjoy supporting local teams to further develop their skills.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

I am a keen photographer and like capturing the unique moments and people that make a day special. I  am obsessed with good food and good coffee. I like making kids and families laugh. I remind myself every day that medicine is an art, we are all human, and each of us deserves a chance to make our dreams come true.  


Dr Alan Appelbe


How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

As a medical student in 1982 I spent three months in Africa working in hospitals. I was inspired by experience and intended to so volunteer work again. Thirty years were to elapse before I saw a note by Noel Bayley, East Timor Hearts Fund's honorary medical adviser, on the Cardiac Society website looking for cardiologists. I have known Noel for many years and it seemed like the perfect time to become involved. Having experienced my first trip to Timor in 2015, and seeing desperately ill young people with valvular heart disease, I regret waiting 30 years to return to volunteer work.


What does your role entail?

I have a particular interest in heart ultrasounds, valvular heart disease and congenital heart disease and I am part of the team that travels to Timor. I help with assessment of the patients. This involves listening to their hearts and performing an ultrasound.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

I am married with three grown children. We enjoy bike riding and bushwalking. We have had a Trust for Nature covenant on our property for 25 years and so we spend a lot of time propagating, planting and weeding 20 acres of remnant vegetation near Geelong in Victoria, Australia.        


Gordon Szegi

Biomedical engineer

How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

For many years I have worked at the same hospital as East Timor Hearts Fund honorary medical adviser Dr Noel Bayley. We would frequently cross paths at work, mostly about equipment related issues for ICU and Coronary Care. When Noel asked if I would be interested in utilising my skills at Hospital Nacional Guido Valadares, I didn’t hesitate to offer some invaluable assistance to the cause. I was aware of the wonderful work Noel and East Timor Hearts Fund are doing and have always had an interest in Timor-Leste through family connections. How fabulous to help out and volunteer to utilise my skills. I see it as an honour.


What does your role entail?

As a biomedical engineer, the nuts and bolts of it is, we manage, maintain and fix medical equipment – any equipment used in patient care.

My role with East Timor Hearts Fund is to help ensure that donated equipment such as patient monitors, ECG machines and diagnostic cardiac ultrasound units stay in good working order. I also help repair faulty cardiac-related equipment at Hospital Nacional Guido Valarades.

During my first visit in February 2017 I assembled pre-loved patient bedside monitors and Holter monitors that allow patients to have their heart rhythm monitored outside hospital, as well as checking defibrillator units which had been donated to the hospital’s cardiac care ward.

Working in a regional hospital in country Victoria, in Australia, there’s the expectation to try and get most devices up and running yourself, with phone support from the supplier. So it’s useful to have an understanding of how a device is to perform on a patient. A background in electronics and being able to problem solve on the spot definitely helps as well.

What are your passions and interests outside work?

Family, skiing, travelling, good red wine and Armagnac, Sudoku, watching cycling and keeping fit by cycling and also running (as much as my knees will allow!).


Professor Andrew Cochrane AM


How and when did you become involved with East Timor Hearts Fund?

I first became involved in overseas charitable cardiac work in 2000, through the Sydney Adventist Hospital outreach program, and have been a member of many cardiac teams to countries including Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, PNG and Myanmar since then.

I was asked to join a Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) paediatric cardiac team to East Timor in 2003, and have been the "team leader" for annual visits since that time, doing simple cardiac operations at the Dili National Hospital. This exposed me to the broader situation in East Timor, and I became involved with other groups such as Dr Dan Murphy's Bairo Pite Clinic (where I now serve on the board and I am a major donor). I also started to raise funds for the Dili Hospital, establishing a fund through RACS, and running an annual concert. Unfortunately efforts to establish a visiting open heart surgery team to East Timor have not been successful.

Throughout most of this time I have also been involved in operating on children and adults brought to Australia for heart surgery through a variety of groups – Children First Foundation, ROMAC / Rotary and more recently East Timor Hearts Fund. These operations have been done at RCH (up to 2008), Epworth Hospital and Monash Medical Centre.


How many East Timorese patients have you treated?

I haven't been counting, but I have operated on about 60 patients in country, and about 10 patients (mainly adolescents or young adults) in Australia.

In addition I have seen many other patients through clinics at both the Dili National Hospital and the Bairo Pite Clinic.


Why do you think this work is important and what makes it rewarding for you?

The work is important for many reasons – the proximity of a much poorer neighbour (East Timor) to ourselves; the hardship and damage that East Timor suffered over many years when its plight was ignored by Australian governments; the contributions that East Timorese made to aid Australians in World War II, and a desire to apply one's skills to help others in less developed/fortunate countries.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

Distance running including Veterans competition, kayaking including the annual Murray Marathon, swimming.

Other philanthropic activities, including administration of a charitable trust with my sister, which provides scholarships for university and in particular music education scholarships and prizes in memory of our mother, who was a concert pianist. I regularly attend these events to present some of these awards (VCE Scholarships for Music Performance and Music Composition, the Margaret Schofield Scholarship of the Melba Opera Trust, annual Chopin competition prize at the Ballarat South Street competition, Lieder Society prizes for best accompanists).


Dr Simon Eggleton


How and why did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

I was searching for an opportunity to volunteer when I came across a post on our society’s website looking for cardiologists to help in Timor-Leste.

I am fortunate to have skills which can help others and wanted to give back to society. East Timor Hearts Fund seemed like the perfect place to do this. It’s a small, young country that has only basic medical care, one of our closest neighbours and that has helped Australia in the past.


What does your role entail?

As part of the volunteer medical team I travel to Timor-Leste to help identify patients in need of cardiac care. This also involves following up those who have already undergone a procedure. As the point of contact, I arrange the procedures for those coming to Sydney. Lastly, I’m part of the board clinical governance committee.


What do you do in your spare time?

Spend time with the family, walk our dog, exercise and travel.

Professor Richard (Rick) Harper

Emeritus Director of Cardiology, Monash Medical Centre

How and when did you become involved in East Timor Hearts Fund?

I became involved when Noel Bayley asked me if I would be willing to perform balloon mitral valvuloplasty on patients with mitral stenosis from East Timor.


How many East Timorese patients have you treated?

Approximately 10.


Why do you think this work is important and what makes it rewarding for you?

It is a great experience to see a severely ill patient get better. The patients are always so humble and non- demanding. Their gratitude at getting better is wonderful to behold.


What are your passions and interests outside work?

Sport (mainly golf), gardening and literature.