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Dr Graham Emblen

Meet GPTQ medical educator, Dr Graham Emblen

Dr Graham Emblen (featured image)

Dr Graham Emblen decided he wanted to become a doctor before the age of 16. His brother, who was 18 months older, was seriously injured in a motorbike accident. He suffered multiple injuries, including head injuries, and was hospitalised for six months.

Graham’s family moved from Mossman, a town of 4,000 people in far north Queensland, to Brisbane, where they could easily access rehabilitation services. It was during this time that a teenage Graham was exposed to the world of medicine and health.

“I told my GP that I wanted to be a GP too. He told me I was too smart for that. The school counsellor told me to think of some other career options.”

Pursuing new challenges

Determined to prove everyone wrong, Graham completed high school and was accepted into medicine at The University of Queensland.

It was there that he met and married Teresa, who was studying occupational therapy.

Graham has had a full and colourful career, constantly seeking new challenges.

Student placement in Papua New Guinea

“My first stretching experience was when I took a placement in New Guinea as a student, where I ended up doing spinal anesthetics and surgery, and was running my own clinic,” he said. “They basically put me in a clinic and said ‘here are your patients’. There was a population of 80,000 people and four doctors. I was thrown in the deep end.”

“The experience made me realise I need to make decisions and take responsibility for my actions.”

Brisbane, the UK and Toowoomba

Graham spent one year as an O&G and Medicine registrar in Brisbane. He then lived and worked in the United Kingdom for 12 months. By then, he and his wife had a two-year-old daughter in tow. But most of Graham’s medical career has been in Toowoomba, where he lived and worked for 27 years.

It was there that he worked as a GP and spent 10 years doing obstetrics and assisting a surgeon. During this time, Graham began to develop an interest in education.

“When I work with patients, I can influence them,” Graham said. “But when I work with doctors, I can have a greater influence.”

An experienced GP supervisor and medical educator

Graham studied a Masters of Family Medicine and undertook the Fellowship of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (FRACGP). Since then he has worked in several educational roles. He ran the RACGP education program in Toowoomba and South West Queensland. Then he helped educator Mark O’Brien set up The Cognitive Institute, writing and presenting workshops. He taught at The University of Queensland’s Rural Clinical School in Toowoomba. Graham has also been a GP supervisor for 17 years. Plus he’s had numerous roles in corporate governance, including the chairman of the division in Toowoomba and on the board of GP Queensland.

Deputy Director of Medical Education in Brisbane

Graham has been an educator with GPTQ for 10 years, including the past four years working as Deputy Director of Medical Education in Brisbane. He loves teaching.

“I get a real buzz when I see lights go on in people,” Graham said. “It’s all about personal growth. A good teacher helps people learn and grow.”

Graham is passionate about teaching communication skills.

“Everything hangs on our ability to communicate,” he said.

An interest in refugee health

Nowadays, Graham works one day each week in practice. He has been shifting his general practice to refugee health.

“I’ve been interested in refugee health for a while. I visited Uganda three times, taking a team of doctors, nurses and allied health to an orphanage there,” Graham said. “The care we take for granted in Australia is not standard in most of the world.”

Graham has four kids, aged 30, 26, 25 and 22. He is a keen cyclist and loves boating.

Graham’s top tips for registrars

1. Gain a breadth of experience

“There are many different ways of practising,” Graham said. “Registrars need awareness and experience in cross-cultural areas such as Indigenous health. Every culture has their differences.”

2. Work outside of Brisbane

“You can see the importance doctors play in rural areas. They have a greater responsibility for patient care. And GPs manage more without specialists.”

3. Learn to build effective relationships with your patients

“If you build a relationship, you will become genuinely interested in your patients. You can communicate better and make a genuine difference to their lives,” Graham said.

4. Let the patient think you have all the time in the world

This is paraphrased advice from Graham’s accountant. He says, it’s about perception. Try not to seem rushed, even though you don’t have a lot of time.