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Meet GPTQ medical educator, Dr Ruchika Luhach

Dr Kate Wallis (featured image)

Dr Ruchika works part-time at a Bowen Hills GP clinic, teaches one day a week as GPTQ’s Assistant Medical Educator for the Brisbane North district, and is also looking at research opportunities through GPTQ.

“One of the amazing things about General Practice is how it adapts to different phases of life. I’ve been able to explore so many different things, whether that’s through medical education with Registrars, examining through the college, or trying my hand at research. It opens the door to so many possibilities.”

From India to The United Arab Emirates to Australia

Dr Ruchika Luhach describes her background as somewhat of ‘a complicated story’.

“I was born in New Delhi but we left when I was three. My early childhood was spent in Abu Dhabi, and we then moved to Sydney during high school. I always find it hard to answer the question where I’m from, as each place has had an impact on how I identify myself,” she explains.

Ruchika says the first seed of studying medicine was planted in early high school when she learnt her father’s sister had passed away as an infant.

“Hearing that really struck me, as she had an illness that is quite treatable in this day and age. It had a powerful impact on my thinking about healthcare and equality in accessing it,” she says.

“I also had some family friends who studied medicine, and was inspired by what they had to say, so I went straight into medicine after high school. Looking back now, I sometimes wonder ‘how much do you really know yourself at 18?’ But medicine lends itself to many different career paths, and you just have to find that spot that’s right for you.”

It took Ruchika a few years to discover her spot was general practice.

“I spent time doing a number of different things to work out my best fit. I worked as a medical registrar, as well as in obstetrics, psychiatry and paediatrics. I did a mix of urban and rural work across many locations, at big city hospitals as well as community ones. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore and understand the health system before committing to one thing,” she says.

She soon came to the understanding that what she enjoyed most was variety and ‘using all the different parts of my brain’. This naturally led her to choose general practice.

A new start in Brisbane

Ruchika currently lives in Brisbane with her husband and two young sons. She works part-time at a Bowen Hills GP clinic, teaches one day a week as GPTQ’s Assistant Medical Educator for the Brisbane North district, and is also looking at research opportunities through GPTQ.

Her family made the move up to Brisbane from Sydney recently. They are thoroughly enjoying the lifestyle changes including a big reduction in their daily commute, giving them more family time in return.

The power of medical education

Ruchika began her GPTQ medical education role in January 2020, but has been involved in the area for over a decade.

“In Sydney, I was a GP Supervisor and examined for the FRACGP, as well as working as a conjoint lecturer with UNSW,” she says.

“I’ve always really enjoyed medical education and have gained a lot from it personally. It forces you to keep your learning up to date, and keeps you humble. You simply cannot get a big head when you’re constantly being asked really intelligent questions!”

Ruchika also feels medical education is a powerful way to shape the future of the profession, and loves being part of that process.

“I enjoy teaching critical reasoning, as one of the greatest challenges in general practice is we often don’t know exactly what’s going on with the patient. It comes down to using all the information you’ve gained through your medical education to logically navigate your way to a solution. You also have to be willing to test that hypothesis and go back if you’re wrong. This process is where the magic of general practice happens,” she says.

“I’m the first to admit I’m not an expert in critical reasoning, and am constantly learning. But I’m fascinated by teaching these skills as it’s not something you can get from a textbook.”

A taste of rural work

Ruchika has been inspired by many people throughout her career, but one family friend in particular stands out.

She says: “He was a rural GP and I was really amazed by the scope of his work and the relationship he had with his community and his patients.”

This may have been a reason why she chose to go out to Broken Hill in far west NSW as a resident, and then on to Tamworth when she was a GP Registrar.

“It was wonderful to get an understanding of parts of Australia I’d never been exposed to before. It’s a little intimidating working in a smaller place because you have a lot more responsibility, plus have to provide more services than you might in an urban area,” she says.

“But with that you gain skills and competence, so it’s a very empowering experience. I certainly walked away from my rural terms feeling more confident in my skills and abilities.”

Advocating for your patients

When it comes to advice for Registrars, Ruchika says it’s imperative to remain curious, and always be open to listening and learning.

“There’s something to be gained from everyone you meet on your path – patient, colleague and mentor. It not only helps you develop personally, but ensures your patients achieve the best outcomes,” she says.

On that topic, Ruchika also suggests you consider the value inherent in being supportive.

“When you’re in a vulnerable position as a patient, having a doctor who you feel is on your side is an extremely powerful thing. As a GP, think about how you can be their best advocate. It’s a really important part of your role.”

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