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Cooktown has a new GP to call its own with the arrival of Dr Ebonney van der Meer.
James Cook University (JCU) registrar Dr van der Meer first went to Cooktown as a fourth year JCU medical student and then again in her sixth year.
There she met three of her mentors: Dr Melania Scrace, Dr Des Hill and Dr Natasha Coventry, who still live and work in the region.
“I spent time with Dr Scrace in the communities of Hopevale and Wujal Wujal and was moved by the stories of a rich and difficult history of these places and their people and the vast difference in the kind of medicine that benefits them,” said Dr van der Meer.
Dr van der Meer has now made the move north after completing her Advanced Specialised Training (AST) in Mental Health at the Townsville Acute Mental Health Inpatient Unit.
She said she looks forward to completing her GP training in Cooktown, after falling in love with the community.
“It’s been a long time coming, we hope to settle in Cooktown and make it our home.
“What we’ve loved about Cooktown each time we’ve visited is its strong sense of community. We enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of a small country town and are really looking forward to the opportunity to bring our kids up close to nature and the outdoors in a place that is so rich in culture and history. It really is a beautiful place to be.
“Professionally I’m attracted to the broad scope of practice and the opportunities to learn from and work together with my patients and colleagues to improve individual and community outcomes according to need.”
“This medicine focused on the whole person, with social determinants of health, primary care and prevention as the main focus, but built on mutual respect and the building of relationships and trust over a long period of time.”
Dr van der Meer said she hopes to use her advanced skill in mental health to build on and expand the delivery of services in the region long-term, but
“Once I get to Cooktown and as I continue to go through my GP training I will be in a better position to know who to talk to about community need. Advocacy and building services is a big part of how I see my role eventually but it’s not something to rush into, ultimately the community will determine what they need and how the service should work,” she said.
“I got into rural generalism because I wanted to be a rural GP, I wanted to help individuals from my community and to help them more broadly as a part of that community.
“Having an advanced skill in mental health has given me a set of skills and tools that help me to help my patients and my colleagues. I feel overall the training has helped me become a better doctor.”