Dr Jason Lam, GP and Medical Educator
Dr Jason Lam, GP and Medical Educator
“It was about 4am on a Monday morning, after being up and on-call as the Plastics and Maxillofacial registrar since 6 am Friday, shoving a Snickers bar (the most energy dense food available in the vending machine) into my mouth while waiting for theatre when I thought I might need to change tack.
I loved operating; that was incredible, but the rest of it – the hours, the uncertainty of getting onto the program, the politics – was making me unhealthy, unhappy and importantly I hadn’t been creative in a long time.
So I took a year off, got a Dip Child Health and Masters of Sports Medicine, travelled, made a film, started dancing again and moved to Melbourne to start general practice and also take up the Crichton Dance Medicine Fellowship at the Australian Ballet.
To be honest I was a bit worried about being bored off my noodle in general practice – I am after all, an ex-surgeon with a notoriously short attention span for things I can’t cut or sew (in which case I have endless patience for tying tiny things together with tiny sutures) – but that couldn’t be further from the truth and I grew to love the variety I see in general practice and appreciate the challenge of the so called ‘soft skills’ around uncertainty and human factors. I’ve enjoyed seeing people change over time and experiencing that journey with them. I’ve also loved the ability to shape my career to my interests; I’ve leveraged my experience in plastics and do a lot of skin cancer work, and see a lot of musculoskeletal medicine as well. I recently volunteered up at the Commonwealth Games and am writing a textbook chapter on the foot and ankle with some of the leading researchers and clinicians. I have also been able to incorporate ultrasound in my work and am heavily involved in promoting its use in primary care being the lead facilitator for the RACGP’s point of care ultrasound introductory course.
Being a professional dancer and artist prior to medicine, I was missing that in my life and am privileged to work with the Australian Ballet as one of their doctors, undertaking research and also presenting and publishing on dance medicine. I’ve always loved teaching and am very happy to be on board as a medical educator with EV as well, and also teach a bit of ballet on the side though I don’t pull on the tights and tread the boards anymore. I am involved in various research projects and am active in FOAMed and am passionate about shortening the knowledge translation gap from research to clinical practice. In amongst all this, I also have time to work on a short film, go mountain biking with more enthusiasm than skill and set up an Etsy store featuring custom dinosaur themed jewellery.”
I did nearly 2 years of basic physician training before I decided to pursue general practice instead and I have never looked back. I love the flexibility of general practice – I am able to be a hands-on mother to our toddler and still work 2 days a week in general practice and 1 day in medical education. I currently work part time at a clinic in Richmond and am involved in the GPT2 workshops at EV.
I also have a media profile and blog called The Wholesome Doctor and am regularly on the radio discussing current health topics or writing pieces for various publishers including Mamamia and Women’s Fitness Online. What I love most about this career is that you can do anything you want with it – I have a wonderful balance of general practice, medical education and media involvement, and I can do it all whilst still picking our toddler up from childcare and squeezing in a Pilates class!
Dr Julie McClelland, GP and Medical Educator
I remember when I was an intern going to a General Practice information session in my lunch hour at the hospital. As I arrived, the speaker a local GP was setting her four young children up in the far corner of the room with coloring books and pencils. I remember watching this winsome scene and thinking “I find medicine rewarding but what I really want to be is a mum”.
I listened to the GP that day talk about how General practice was a family friendly career and it was possible to work part time or school hours and still be there for your kids. She also talked about the variety in general practice and how you provide cradle to grave care. I was sold!
I completed my general practice training and stayed on as an associate at my last training practice. When I was pregnant with my first child I found the practice to be really supportive and accommodating. When my son was born I took six months off completely. I knew my patients were in safe hands being cared for by my colleagues. I then returned to work one day a week while my son was minded by my parents. I found I really looked forward to going to work to see my patients and colleagues but also enjoyed my days at home with my son. My parents loved spending precious time with their new grandson. It was win win! When my daughter came along, I took a full year of maternity leave. All my patients were still waiting for me at the practice on my return, keen to see pictures of the new baby. The beauty of general practice and particularly, a large group practice is that it is possible to take leave when your family needs you without jeopardizing your patients care.
My children are school age now and I’m able to work a lot more. Now days, I divide my time between the clinic, teaching GP registrars at EV GP Training and surgical assisting with a local Breast Surgeon. I have fantastic variety in my working life and three days a week I am there when the bell rings, to pick up my children from school. We still rely on grandparents for the shortfall.
I’m so glad I chose general practice as it has enabled me to have a satisfying career but still be a hands on mum. General Practice is very rewarding but motherhood will always be my joy.
And serendipitously, through my work at EV GP Training, I am occasionally the speaker at General Practice information sessions. While my kids are always welcome to come along, they prefer to go to Nanas!
Dr Grant Connoley, GP and former EV Board Director
My medical career started when I graduated from the University of Melbourne. After my hospital years at the Austin Hospital and Monash Medical centre, including a diploma of obstetrics, I joined the Family Medicine Program, then run by the RACGP (the forerunner of the current general practice training scheme). I wasn’t sure I was destined for general practice, but there was an FMP rotation at Monash University Department of Family Medicine that looked interesting. Part of that rotation was at Blackburn Clinic. I stayed on at Monash for a few years, then worked as a Medical Educator at the FMP for another couple of years, but I always kept up sessions at Blackburn clinic, and I am still there after 28 years!
I think one of the benefits of general practice is the ability to become involved in related activities. Over the years I have been involved with Divisions of General Practice, then Medicare Locals. I have been a GP advisor to the Lung Health Promotion unit at the Alfred Hospital. I have been a GP Supervisor for over 20 years, and have been on the board of VMA and am now on the EVGP Training board. I have also been the medical advisor for an international amateur golf tournament for many years – unfortunately I hasn’t helped by golf!
Another benefit of general practice is the ability to change your interests over time – the scope of practice is so large, that it is helpful to have areas of particular expertise. My current interests, apart from medical education, are in allergy, asthma, diabetes and dermatology, as well as medical informatics.
People often talk about the flexibility of general practice, and that has certainly worked in my favour. Working long hours at times, but being able to change that when it suits me. I travelled around Northern Territory and WA camping for 4 months with my family when my children were in primary school, and I still had a job to come back to.
Being in a large practice with many of colleagues makes it easier to keep up with changes and share the burdens and responsibility of general practice – there is usually somebody around who can answer questions – often the ones asked by registrars that I can’t answer.
Being in the one practice for so long also has more benefits than disadvantages. Patients are generally well known and consultations are usually part of an ongoing conversation over years. You get to know patients and their families and you also get to know local services and facilities, local specialists and hospitals – so much of general practice is now about helping patients navigate the system. I don’t envy new registrars trying to learn about our health care system. Even now the NDIS, e-health record, codeine rescheduling and changes to mental health care are keeping me on my toes.
My scope of practice is also changing – I recently commented to a colleague I have gone from giving contraception advice to menopause advice, as my patients and I grow older together. I don’t remember completing a death certificate in my first few years of general practice, but now palliative care is a regular part of my practice – unfortunately it is often for patients I have known for many years.
Dr Belinda Hosking, GP and Medical Educator
I have been a general practitioner in metropolitan Melbourne for over 30 years. I have also been a medical educator in general practice training for about 15 years.
Several years ago I started to do volunteer work abroad. First in Fiji, then Nepal and over the last two years in Tanzania. The later was for an organisation called Care for Africa. The CEO, Diana Butler, was also instrumental in setting up the organisation over 10 years ago. The organisation is providing clean water, health care and education in the six villages of the Tarime district. A remote area in Tanzania.
Through my work with the school clinics I was able to identify children with specific needs such as orthopaedic , plastic surgery or epilepsy. With a close friend Meredith Ramadan and one of the former Registrars from our training program, Alexandra Abel, we set up a program called Care for Children Tarime.
An example of our work is Ally, an eight year old boy who had a tumour on his jaw. This was progressively painful and he was being teased at school so he would often refuse to go. With surgery he is now pain free and attending school.
I know that Ally would otherwise have had no treatment and become marginalised in his community.
It has been the breadth of General Practice that has given me the opportunity for this and numerous other experiences that has enriched my life.