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My Mum was a Radiographer at Johannesburg's infectious diseases hospital and I spent a lot of time there after school where I was supposed to be doing homework but rather spent time chatting to staff and patients. Dad was a school teacher, and ultimately a principal, so I suppose that's where I got my love of teaching.
But it was my seven years in Richmond followed by twelve years in Cloncurry as Medical Superintendant Right of Private Practice (MSRPP) that made it crystal clear that we have to grow our own workforce. I became a supervisor in 2005, as soon as I was eligible, five years after becoming a RACGP fellow.
My latest role has been very exciting. I left Cloncurry in 2018 to "retire" into a 40 hour a week GP only job. I felt homesick for the northwest within a few months. An opportunity came up for me to work at Gidgee healing in Normanton on a three weeks on, two weeks off basis. Normanton is a great community with endless scope for teaching and learning. My first mission was to finally get medical students to Normanton. They started coming in late 2018.
I was shocked to hear that there were no accredited teaching posts for registrars to do an Advanced Specialised Training in Indigenous health in the northwest so I set about accrediting the practice for registrars, after meeting Dr Trish Murphy at an RDAQ conference in Cairns. It was my husband Dr Chris Appleby, who helped a lot with all the paperwork, as he always does!
I was then contacted by a former medical student, Erica West who had spent a fourth-year term with me in Cloncurry when she heard she might be able to do a general practice term in Normanton. That was an excellent outcome as her Advanced Specialised Training in Paediatrics came in very handy in a town with such unmet need. She was Normanton's first-ever GP Registrar starting in February 2020. Unlike many registrars on the coast, the pandemic made us even busier than usual and I chose to spend longer stints in Normanton to avoid the lockdown chaos on the coast.
I love knowing I will leave a workforce legacy in Western Queensland no matter what. I have had over 20 registrars over the years and all of them have gone on to have great careers. My biggest source of pride and joy has been Dr Leonie Fromberg becoming the Senior Medical Officer Medical Superintendant of my beloved adopted hometown of Cloncurry. Then there's Dr Joe Farrell providing excellent clinical care and teaching in Barcaldine, Dr Konrad Kangru who looks after Proserpine and was RDAQ President, Franco Rodrigues in Clifton, Julie Verran in Dirrinbandi, and many others who might be in urban and large regional areas but who still practice holistic GP care.
I maintain a keen interest in infectious diseases especially rarer zoonoses that affect country people disproportionately; I was one of the first Queensland rural vaccinators for Q-fever in 1999 and have taught many a registrar how to do skin testing. Skin cancer surgery has always been a necessity, closing the gap and preventing the progression of kidney disease to dialysis required by my Aboriginal patients is yet another special interest in my line of work. I’m also trying to improve the mental health of my patients, especially tackling youth suicide. In short, I am a rural/remote small-town generalist with a firm grounding in family medicine.
Hosting Dr Cameron Hoare as a fourth-year student, then seeing him come back as one of our first six-month sixth-year students and then as a registrar. He is currently doing Advanced Specialised Training in Emergency Medicine in a city but rural Queensland will benefit from the skills he learned for many years to come. I really lived the JCU goal of a seamless path from student to rural generalist.
I want General Practice to remain focused on generalism which is why I believe good rural practices still provide the best training. We need to return to a more generalist approach a small-town remote rural workforce.
I attended the Normanton rodeo last weekend and caught up with bronco and bull riders on whom I had done baby checks back in Richmond and Cloncurry, and I just love the friendships, loyalty and sense of community I get being in the bush.