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Meet GPTQ medical educator, Dr Sidya Raghavan

Dr Brendan Triggs (featured image)

Dr Sidya Raghavan has had an interesting medical career practising in both urban and rural settings in Queensland. Her journey to become a doctor began in India as a medical student and she then migrated to Australia to continue her training.

“Back in India, general practice was not one of the most spoken about branches of medicine. But practising as a GP in Australia has worked beautifully for me. It’s very flexible as I can change my hours depending on what the kids are up to. If they have a music concert, I can close my book for a half an hour to attend.”

The ten-year moratorium rural requirement

When Sidya began her GP training in Australia, she was required to abide by the government’s ten-year moratorium and practice in a rural area.

“It’s interesting even now not many people know the ins and outs of the moratorium. I could have received an exemption but I was not advised so we did move to a rural town so I could do my training,” she says.

Sidya and her family chose to live in Gatton in rural Queensland during her first year of GP training. It was a challenging time to move there.

“The move was straight after the 2011 floods. A lot of the houses in and around Gatton were damaged so we didn’t have road access for a week or two. I was really hesitant about how it was all going to go,” she says.

The town’s welcome removed all her worries about the flood and the move. The community embraced her and her family and were really happy she was living in the town as she was the only doctor to do so.

“It was a beautiful experience and the community were fantastic even though they had gone through a lot,” she says. “I had a child in the local school and one in day care close to my practice. So a lot of patients identified with me and knew the kids well. It was a really good experience.”

The biggest difference she found between city and rural practice was the autonomy country practice offered her.

“You can do more for your patients in a rural setting. If somebody was presenting with a chest pain, I could do a bit more before the ambulance arrived, whereas in an inner city setting, I found the very next second there’s an ambulance there to take the patient off,” she says. “In terms of clinical skills, I think you’re more in touch with them in a rural setting as opposed to an urban one.”

Sidya moved to Toowoomba for her second year of training and has lived there with her husband and two kids for the past six years.

From India to Australia

Sidya grew up in Chennai, South India in a medical family. Both parents were doctors and she says it was expected she would follow in their footsteps. But she wasn’t convinced it was the right path.

“I did resist that expectation a bit as I wanted to go into IT. It was the very flash thing to do when I was young. But towards the end of my school years, my uncle sat me down and asked me to think it through. I then had to agree that I’d rather be a physician than do IT,” she says.

After completing her medical degree and internship, Sidya’s parents arranged her marriage – as is the norm in her culture – to a man living in Australia. She migrated here and then studied to ensure she met all the Australian Medical Council requirements and began working in the hospital system.

“At the time, I had a one-year old at home and trying to juggle hospital shift work was really hard. One of the GPTQ educators came and talked to us during a hospital teaching session and showed us the variety that general practice could provide as opposed to other specialties. Ultimately, I chose general practice for family reasons but that presentation made me realise I would enjoy it so much more than just one specialty.”

An early move into medical education

Sidya currently works four days a week at St Andrew’s Medical Centre in Toowoomba. She has also been one of GPTQ’s district medical educators for the Darling Downs and West Moreton hub for the past two years.

“My dad used to love teaching his junior surgery registrars so I’ve got a bit of inspiration from him,” she says.

Another strong influence came during her second year of training when she was asked to be a GP registrar liaison officer.

“I started doing education presentations for junior registrars and medical students and found it was something I really enjoyed. Interacting with them was very stimulating,” she says. “I also got good feedback from the senior educators saying ‘Well, they seem to really like what you’re teaching. Do you want to keep doing more?’ and it just progressed from there.”


Advising registrars on a ‘hidden’ topic

Sidya says she doesn’t mind what topic she teaches as long as it’s associated with general practice. She likes to address the sometimes taboo topic of billing with her registrars.

“Registrars hate the fact that they have to charge people. But it’s important they understand the system side of general practice too. Certainly it’s very difficult for the registrars to bill patients in the initial stages of training, but they do soon realise that the treatment and information they’re offering is a valuable service to society,” she says.

Sidya also loves to reassure her registrars that they aren’t alone in general practice.

“All your GP educators love teaching and that’s why we’re part of a teaching practice. Don’t ever hesitate to ask a question or seek others’ opinion. You may feel uncomfortable to do this because you feel you should be able to do everything by yourself but in those first six months, you will need a lot of help to establish yourself.”