He hails from the western suburbs of Sydney and growing up had no aspirations of studying medicine, so if you’d told a young Brett Duckworth he’d end up as a rural GP living in country Queensland, he wouldn’t have believed you.
“I thought I’d grow up to be an accountant,” Brett says.
That’s one of the great beauty’s of life though, isn’t it? You can’t predict where it will take you.
Brett’s journey to medicine, and eventually rural general practice (he is a 3rd year RACGP Registrar) came about after a short-lived career in pathology.
“I spent two years working as a pathologist—one year in the lab, then one as a collector,” he explains.
“I enjoyed working with GPs as a collector and scientific officer, which made me want to be a part of the decision-making and helping people,” he says.
“I guess that was really the catalyst for me deciding to study medicine.”
Brett moved to Brisbane to undertake his medical degree at the University of Queensland and it was a rural clinical placement while studying that planted the seed for a career beyond city limits.
Brett spent six weeks in Texas on the border of Queensland and New South Wales (population 843) working between the town’s solo general practice and the local hospital.
The experience left a strong impression.
“Texas was a great mix of GP and hospital work,” he says.
“The breadth of practice touched on all aspects of medicine and I’d always wanted to be a doctor that knew something about everything, rather than everything about something.”
When the time came to settle on the path his medical career would take, Brett says rural general practice had established itself as a frontrunner.
By now he was married and any next steps would need to align with his wife Emma’s burgeoning career as a police officer.
Emma was at a career crossroads as well—weighing up whether to take a city job or a rural posting.
“We decided we both wanted to go rural, but rather than leaving things to chance and ending up wherever Emma might be posted we began searching for a community that would suit us both,” Brett explains.
“When Goondiwindi came up on our list of possibilities we worked out pretty quickly it had all the attributes we were looking for,” he says.
At the beginning of 2018, as a 1st year GP Registrar, Brett was welcomed into the fold at Goondiwindi Medical Centre.
Th practice boasts seven established GPs and Brett is training alongside four other registrars, all at various points along the general practice training pathway.
“It was a big adjustment going from a city hospital environment to the general practice and rural hospital environment,” Brett says.
“The support has been amazing though. Working on call at the hospital has allowed me to have hands on experience with significant medical issues, and the GP work means I get to follow these patients up—sometimes for years at a time. It really embodies wholistic care.”
Meantime, the police role Emma secured in town has also proved to be a strong fit.
“Policing in a smaller community is great,” Brett explains.
“There is an emphasis on community engagement here and Emma really enjoys that aspect.”
Brett’s working week involves three days based at Goondiwindi Medical Centre and one day at the local hospital where he handles emergency department cases and inpatient care.
He says for him this balance is just right.
“There is always something happening at the hospital and I like that. It can feel a little daunting at times, knowing the buck stops with me, but that challenge is good too,” Brett explains.
“And as I said, working between the practice and the hospital is great in terms of continuity of care,” he says.
“You are seeing patients again and again, and in different capacities which provides the opportunity to develop a good rapport with people. I love it.”