Meet the Fellows: Dr James Turner

Dr James Turner loves being a GP and recognises that he has a unique opportunity to make a real difference in peoples’ lives.

He considers it one of the best aspects of treating patients; it is a driving force behind his unwavering passion for the profession.

“You’re there when your patients are vulnerable, you celebrate their triumphs, you are the key support in managing their physical and mental health which is such an important part of their wellbeing,” he said.

During his training, Dr Turner was placed in Albany and was instantly enamoured with the place and people.

“After three months of working here I was looking for a house and wanting to settle,” he said. “It is a stunning part of the world, a great place to raise a family and I feel very fortunate to be living and working here.”

Dr Turner said being a rural GP means having the ability to practise across the spectrum of acute and chronic illnesses.

“I remember as a registrar being thrown into the deep end, being responsible for patients in the emergency department, general medical and paediatric wards, high-dependency unit, mental health unit, and the GP surgery,” he said.

“There was always excellent support from my supervisors if needed but it was a quick way to get some great experience.

“The opportunity to get stuck into minor surgery shaped an interest in skin cancer medicine and dermatology and I have been able to expand this into a skin clinic at Pioneer Health.”

Dr Turner commenced his first term with the AGPT program in 2007 and fellowed with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in 2009. He now mentors young and aspiring doctors as they train to become GPs.

He has supervised GP registrars, regional medical officers and interns, and medical students placed with the practice and the hospital.

As the business owner of Pioneer Health Albany, he finds practice ownership to be wonderfully challenging.

“Across two practice locations in Albany and Mount Barker I work with awesome teams of people to meet the challenges of providing care for our community,” Dr Turner said.

Part of this challenge was shifting to fit the new primary health care imperatives created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The last year has been hard and incredibly challenging, mainly around adjusting the practices to screen patients effectively, to incorporate telehealth, and to optimise safety with cleaning and PPE supplies.

“Early on we set up a drive through clinic with marquees and a catering truck; a year later and it is still running.

“We have assessed and treated thousands of people with respiratory illnesses and tested thousands for COVID-19.

“Right now, we are gearing up to vaccinate thousands in our community.”

Although challenges associated with general practice can be daunting, Dr Turner says those challenges will be the basis of fond memories.

“When you look back you really feel fortunate to have such a great vocation, and you realise your most stressful days are often your most satisfying,” he said.

“I hope all the trainees that we see catch the vision for rural general practice and are inspired about what could be an exciting career for them.”