I grew up in a small town in Victoria…it’s called Melbourne. To be more specific, my formative years were spent in an outer suburb called Croydon. Having not got the super marks needed for medicine straight out of school, I completed an undergraduate degree in biomedical science. During my honours year in cellular immunology, I realised that spending all day working in a laboratory wasn’t for me.
With my honours, a good interview and the GAMSAT behind me, I was offered a place at Flinders University to study postgraduate medicine in Adelaide. Flinders has a reputation of offering great rural placements and my training was no exception. In fact, it was one of these rural placements during my final year that cemented my decision to become a rural GP. At the time I was considering anaesthetics, paediatrics and general practice. The GPs in this particular town made me realise that I could experience all of these aspects of medicine and more as a country doctor.
So as I progressed through my junior doctor years, I endeavoured to gain experience in emergency medicine, paediatrics and surgery. During this time other junior doctor colleagues interested in sub-specialties could complete a term and not need to remember skills if they didn’t relate to their career. But as a future rural GP, all of these would be essential. Part of the phrase “jack of all trades” really appealed to me at this point.
I felt that maybe, after these placements, I would be comfortable practising in a country town. But what about living in and being part of a small community? My great-grandfather had lived and worked on the railways in northwest Victoria around the towns of Birchip and Wycheproof. Since then, my family had lived in the suburbs. How would a city boy with long lost rural heritage cope?
The chance to see if I would sink or swim came in early 2012 when I was slotted to spend the first year of my GP training in Wudinna, a town of 800 on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. It was everything I had hoped for.
Along with fulfilling a lifelong passion to become a pilot (a skill that I hope to use as a country doctor), I found that being a GP in such a small town had so many benefits. I knew the patients behind the illnesses; I played footy with them and I saw them down the street. One day, I stitched together an opposition player’s lip after I’d played in the same game. I promise it wasn’t me who whacked him!
I’m continuing my GP training this year as a registrar working in the Adelaide Hills. I know that small town medicine has its challenges compared with the city and being able to leave town and be an anonymous face may well become a luxury. But for now I’m happy to be a valuable part of a community and visit the big smoke every now and then. Go rural? It was an easy choice for this city boy.
Find out more about rural medical careers in South Australia at http://www.ruraldoc.com.au/