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Former nurse is Queensland’s GP in Training of the Year

30 September 2022

RACGP’s 2022 Queensland GP in Training of the Year, Townsville’s Dr Laura MacDonald, is a former registered nurse who, with a little encouragement from her medical colleagues, decided to go back to the books and study medicine 11 years ago.

Dr MacDonald graduated from James Cook University as a nurse in 2002, then as a doctor in 2016, and is working towards her GP fellowship with JCU’s General Practice Training Program.

“Nursing was my first career and it was diverse and interesting. I was working so autonomously as a nurse, but obviously there was a limit to my scope. I always loved the idea of pursuing a career in general practice” says Dr MacDonald. “The reason I did medicine was to be a GP – there was never a doubt.”

“I like having a beautiful bunch of patients who I know a lot about. There’s always good conversation and I meet a diverse range of people who teach me new things about life every day. Ultimately, I hope that I can make a difference to the health and overall wellbeing of others.

“I like having the time to get to know people and to not just treat the illness but look at the whole patient. And the lifestyle that GP brings is ideal when you've got little kids. I’ve been lucky to work with some inspiring GP mentors and supervisors who have made this journey a positive one.”

Dr MacDonald’s family emigrated from the UK when she was a teenager and she attended secondary school at Kirwan High in Townsville. After her first JCU graduation, she worked as a nurse at the Mater Hospital and at a general surgical practice for eight years before colleagues encouraged her to apply for JCU’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree.

“Doctors Sally Meade, Jason Boldery and John Avramovic were probably the main three colleagues who really told me that medicine is what I should be doing. I was so grateful to get in on first go because I know how competitive it is,” she says.

The mum of two girls, aged 3 and 6, gave birth to her first daughter during the final year of her JCU medical degree. “It was the year my dad retired, and he was my ‘nanny’. I also had some amazing, very supportive supervisors who appreciated my situation and were very kind,” she says.

“Probably my most memorable prac was in Tully – that was in sixth year and I was pregnant. All the midwives up there were looking after me because I was there until I was 36 weeks.”

“Tully was the first time I felt like a real doctor because the team let me work very independently. I saw loads of interesting presentations and it was just a really nice community. I plan to spend some time working in rural communities again once I finish training.

“I had a great time during my degree. I was 10 years older than most of the people who I did my degree with, but the group that I went through with, we're lifelong friends. They're all getting old now and turning 30,” she says with a laugh.

“The degree went really quickly. I nursed most of my way through it, working most weekends at the Mater. My boyfriend (now husband) had accepted a job in America for a year in 2014, so I spent every little break in that year flying back and forth to see him!”

Dr MacDonald did her internship and RMO years at Townsville University Hospital and gave birth to her second daughter in postgraduate year 3.

“My family is here and they’re my village. My amazing husband and parents are the reason that I've managed to do what I've done,” she says.  “This award came as a complete and very lovely surprise. Mostly I’m just grateful to anyone who thought I was worthy of the nomination.”

RACGP will announce the national award winners from the cohort of state and territory winners at GP22 on Sunday 27 November. 

Find out more about the adventure and lifestyle on offer through GP training.

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JCU Stories

James Cook University’s GP training program supports registrars to live, learn and work alongside inspirational educators, supervisors and mentors in diverse regional, rural and remote locations across Queensland.

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