Dr Sam Petersen
Meet Dr Sam Petersen, our Rural Registrar Liaison Officer
Dr Sam Petersen’s love of a rural life spurred him to make the move and in doing so, take on a role to provide support to rural registrars.
“I’ve only been in Chinchilla for six months, but I certainly feel part of the community.”
The rural community spirit
Sam says there are big advantages to making the move to a rural town, not least of which are the opportunities he’s offered in practicing a breath of medicine.
“There’s not a single patient that I can’t at least assess. I have to be able to assess any patient at any time, and I feel that being part of the community is a huge plus. I’ve had a great time since I’ve been here. I was greeted by seven people on the weekend just going down to the bakery with my wife.”
An interesting upbringing
Sam was born in Australia, but grew up in Brazil where his parents worked as missionaries. He did an undergraduate degree at the Master’s College in Los Angeles, before deciding to study medicine at University of Queensland (UQ).
“While at UQ, I became interested in rural medicine. I had completed two years at Toowoomba Hospital, and while I was doing medicine, I signed up for the Rural Generalist Pathway,” says Sam.
“I did my intern resident year in Toowoomba, and during that year I did a lot of traveling out to rural hospitals for ‘rural relieving’. That was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. My third year out of medicine, I did a year of obstetrics training and I have my advanced diploma in obstetrics.”
A variety of work
While Sam says working rurally is “not for everyone”, he enjoys the huge variety of what he is able to do. “I do obstetrics and look after a woman when she’s pregnant and through her whole antenatal care,” says Sam. “I will deliver the baby and check up on both mother and baby one week and six weeks after delivery. At the same time, I can be called up in the middle of the night to help with a palliative patient and keep them as comfortable as possible at home. There’s huge variety. That’s one of the things I like about it.”
Sam also admits to being an “adrenalin junkie” and enjoys the fast pace of hospital emergency department work. “That’s the sort of stuff I find interesting, but it’s nice to have an ordered day at the GP clinic so that I can recover!”
Rural GP qualities
Being resourceful, able to improvise, flexible and adaptable to any situation are all qualities Sam says a rural GP needs.
“Rural general practice is particularly good for people who are jack of all trades. I very much identify with that. Hardworking is another one!”
Sam has been inspired by other rural GPs, which he says have been role models for rural general practice.
“Dr Dan Monahan is a bit of a legend in these parts for rural GPs. He used to be the Medical Superintendent at Stanthorpe when I worked as an intern there. Dr Ewen McPhee, a GP in Emerald, was also a role model for me when I was doing my rural relieving terms. We rural guys listen to what they have to say,” says Sam.
Helping rural registrars
As a part of his RLO role, Sam enjoys addressing some of the rural-specific concerns that rural registrars have.
“One of the main issues for rural GPs is work-life balance,” says Sam. “A lot of people go into general practice with the expectation of having their weekends off and working normal business hours. In the rural community, that’s not always the case and it can become quite demanding being a rural GP and working long hours.”
“I also find peer support is key for rural registrars and conferences can be really useful as get-togethers to share learnings. My role is in facilitating those opportunities, make sure they are running smoothly, and ensuring we improve the processes that are already there.”
It’s not all work for Sam however. He enjoys sports, has a gym membership and loves getting out in nature. He is also involved with the local church, and he and his wife Jen, a school teacher, have just had a baby girl, Abigail Joy, born premature at 33 weeks in Toowoomba Hospital. “I was on strict hand holding duty,” says Sam.
Sam plans to add to his significant list of skills in future. “I already have obstetrics, but I am interested in doing another qualification, possibly anaesthetics, and either continuing as a rural GP or doing humanitarian work overseas,” he says.
While Sam grew up in Brazil, his wife grew up in India, with both sets of parents working as missionaries in those countries; his wife’s parents having established a palliative care unit in India for HIV positive patients, as well as an orphanage for the children of parents who have died of HIV/AIDS. “There’s that humanitarian bent in us, so it’s something we are open to.”