Community Spotlight: Dr Lewis MacKinnon

I find myself becoming a hybrid of doctor, village elder, priest and confidant, which is a true honour.

The Royal Australian College of General Practice (RACGP) recently named WAGPET medical educator, Lewis MacKinnon, 2019 GP of the Year for WA. Having started his journey training in the UK and Scotland, Dr MacKinnon shares how he’s made a new home here and how he’s giving back to his community in Armadale.

“Having trained predominantly in metro and outer metro areas, I missed out on rural GP training early on. However, I made up for this after fellowship by taking a remote GP job on Islay, which is one of the Inner Hebrides islands, off the west coast of Scotland. There are three GPs for 10,000 patients and often the island is totally cut off from the mainland, for days at a time, with only a Navy helicopter for medical evacuation thanks to inclement weather. I loved that job just as much as serving in Her Majesty’s forces as an army doctor for the Reserves. Eventually, when I had a young family, I felt it was a good time to try a different way of working and a different climate, so I took an opportunity for temporary work in Armadale, Western Australia in 2015. I’ve thrived in this environment and I’ve put down permanent roots. I even started my own medical centre in Armadale in 2016, where I still work today.”

It’s this endeavour that Dr MacKinnon says has been the most inspiring part of his career so far. He explains, “Starting my own practice required commitment and was a financial and personal gamble. It’s been great to design the space from the ground up. I’ve enjoyed patient loyalty and positive feedback. It’s the practice of my dreams and to watch it grow, predominantly through word of mouth, has been incredible. I’ve gotten to know families, watch their kids grow up and see their families expand. I’m privileged to feel part of my community. Our clinic definitely has a community feel and we offer loads of free workshops like baby weaning classes and new parent groups. We even sponsor our local T-ball team and attend their prize giving every year. I find myself becoming a hybrid of doctor, village elder, priest, and confidant, which is a true honour.”

Following his own success, he’s now putting his knowledge and experience into his role as a medical educator at WAGPET, teaching and mentoring GP registrars. He adds, “I have witnessed medical education delivered poorly as an undergrad, so I always strive to do better and explain things in the best way possible to registrars by reflecting on difficulties that I’ve experienced firsthand. Like many, I also find delivering education a useful way to keep me up-to-date, keep me on my toes and help me stay current. I also enjoy the enthusiasm of working with junior colleagues and being able to advocate for them where needed.”

When asked what a typical week looks like for him, his easy-going nature and willingness to support others shines through. He says, “I’ve found a way to balance a busy clinic with part time work as a medical educator. I find my WAGPET training days to be refreshing and busy in a different kind of way. I like to stay in touch with registrars through email, calls or site visits and work closely with my program training advisor Alanah White. I also work as a clinical lecturer at two medical schools in Perth, which usually involves supervision of medical students at my practice too. Besides delivering education, I like to think I’m approachable and a sounding board for all my students. I’m also a proactive member of RACGP as a WA council member, where I advocate for training-related issues to the college and do my best to represent my registrars, as well as my colleagues. I believe there are ample opportunities within the GP career. You don’t need to have expensive qualifications or years of experience to contribute, and recent fellows have plenty to offer too.”

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