I was repeatedly left in awe at their ability to deliver optimal care with suboptimal resources.
1. Why did you become a doctor?
I grew up nestled in the hills of country New South Wales in a small-town called Bellbrook. Bellbrook was the centre of my world for many years and in the centre of that world was my sole rural GP, Dr Paul Appleton. From an early age, Dr Appleton left quite the impression on me. This impression was set not by his words, but by the words of his patients and his actions. He was held with the utmost regard by both of my parents and the whole town who would always say ‘how lucky we were to have the best GP in the whole Macleay Valley’ and ‘can you remember how hard it was before we had a GP out here’. Going to see Dr Appleton was always a treat. He was a kind, humble man, with glasses, a long beard, a cup of tea and the authority on all there was to know about the human body. No matter what some city specialist had said or couldn’t figure out, there was no doubt that Dr Appleton would be able to cure your ailment. From brown snake killer at our two teacher primary school, to engineering asthma spacers out of 600ml soft drink bottles, Dr Appleton was the true all-rounder, community man that I aspired to be.
2. What drew you to rural generalism?
Working as a junior doctor, the dichotomy between regional and tertiary centres was stark. I opted to return to work for several rotations in Armidale, NSW where I worked under rural physicians, surgeons and generalists, all who had previously been my university teachers at the Rural Clinical School. I was repeatedly left in awe at their ability to deliver optimal care with suboptimal resources to a staggeringly wide array of medical conditions and situations. Furthermore was how patients treated these doctors. Working in large tertiary centres you quickly become just another face and often feel an overwhelming sense of an inability to instigate any positive change. However, working in smaller centres you know your patients, you see them at the shops and down the street and they are thankful for everything that you do. My time studying and then working in Armidale was key to me pursuing a career in rural generalism.
3. What do you hope life and work will look like when you finish your GP fellowship?
On completion of my JCCA and FACRRM, I hope to find myself settling within a rural town of between 15,000 - 20,000 people where both my wife, who is a speech pathologist, and I can work to support the local hospital and wider community. Enjoying the flexibility that rural generalism lends, I hope to combine anaesthetics with on-call obstetric services, emergency medicine and general practice. One day, my dream is to work for a flying medical service and to eventually take my skills acquired as a rural generalist and work in some capacity in foreign aid. Outside of work, my wife and I would love to have a little farm and perhaps an alpaca or two and possibly even a child.
4. What does a day anaesthetics training look like?
Following my decision to pursue a career in rural generalism, I applied and was accepted into ACRRM and WAGPET to complete my training. My wife and I chose to move to Western Australia for training due to the vastness of the state and the opportunity to experience remoteness at its core. With this remoteness in mind, I opted for training in anaesthetics and am currently privileged to be training at Joondalup Health Campus. In my opinion, training in anaesthetics arms you with skills that are the ultimate ‘swiss army knife’, giving an approach to hopefully get you out of most sticky clinical situations that you may find yourself encountering in regional and remote areas. Anaesthetics is amazing, it's fun, rewarding and extremely mentally stimulating. You can be called to a woman in labour who is rolling around her bed in agony and half an hour later come back to find her fast asleep due to your successful epidural. In a similar manner, I can perform a spinal on a pregnant mum who has come in for an elective cesarean and experience the birth of her child with her partner. Learning skills to take control of an airway and ventilate a patient while controlling physiology at the end of a syringe is an amazing skillset that empowers you with confidence. Most of all, it is knowing that one day I will be able to take these skills to an area of need and provide a service to the people of that community. Anaesthetics combined with the wholesome nature of GP was a no brainer for me.