Surgeon hopes to tackle region's high obesity
STEFAAN De Clercq hopes to change central Queensland's shockingly high rate of obesity.
Recently arrived at Gladstone Hospital from Antwerp, Belgium, Dr De Clercq has concentrated on bariatric surgery for the past 10 years in a specialist obesity clinic.
"Morbid obesity (a BMI above 35) affects 5-8% of people in western countries," he said. "But in Australia that level is around 10%."
It's an incidence level he hopes he can help change.
Dr De Clercq's family - his wife Els and children Charlotte, Pieter-Jan and Julie - are settling down in their new country and getting used to the changed culture.
Charlotte and Pieter-Jan attend Tannum Sands State High School and Julie is a student at St Francis School at Tannum Sands.
The family is currently negotiating to buy a home in Boyne Island.
"Els spent quite some time in Australia many years ago, and fell in love with it, so it was always an option to come back here at some stage to live," Dr De Clercq said.
"We considered some of the larger cities but decided, after coming from a city of 500,000, that we would like to experience a more peaceful lifestyle, with the priorities being tranquility and close to the sea.
"An opportunity came in central Queensland to do some work in general digestive and mainly laparoscopic surgery, here in Gladstone, which suited us well," he said.
"We came and visited Gladstone, made contact with the BITS Medical Centre (where Els will soon become a general practitioner) and it all seemed to fit together."
It's taken two years of paperwork to become accredited as doctors in Australia, but now that is almost all behind them and they are looking forward to an exciting future here.