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Dr Kim Huynh is a passionate advocate for rural medicine and plays an important role supporting rural registrars during their GP training. Here he shares his journey to General Practice and his passion for rural medicine.

Travels up and down the coast

Dr Kim Huynh has spent a number of years traversing across a large section of the east coast of Australia.

“I grew up in Sydney and did my primary school years there. We then moved up to Brisbane where I went to high school and then the University of Queensland (UQ),” he explains.

At UQ, Kim studied for a pharmacy degree and upon completion, started working in the field. It was then he realised the medical knowledge he’d accumulated put him in a great position to study medicine. And that’s exactly what Kim did, opting to first finish off his year training as a pharmacist and getting registered, before making the trek down the coast to Victoria to study.

“I did my medical degree at Deakin University, while also working at Geelong Hospital. I was attracted to Deakin as it was opened specifically to train rural and regional doctors, and I knew that was an area I wanted to work in,” he explains.

“After four years in Victoria, I’d had enough of the cold and also really missed my family back in Brisbane. Then Queensland Health called me about an intern position that had just opened up at Toowoomba Hospital. So I said yes and moved back to Queensland, where it’s thankfully much warmer!”

Making the decision to become a GP

When Kim started working as an intern at Toowoomba Hospital, he says he had ‘no idea that he wanted to be a GP’. But a stint of country relieving work in the Darling Downs region quickly changed that.

“I just fell in love with rural medicine. I saw how a rural GP is not just a GP. You’re doing so many different things because there’s a need for it. As an example, a child might come in with a suspected broken bone. You have to perform the x-ray yourself and interpret it. You then take on the role of the anaesthetist to sedate the child, and also become the bone surgeon by pulling the bone back into place and setting it. You don’t get to do that if you’re an urban GP,” he smiles.

A firm commitment to remain rural

“I have no doubt that I want to stay here for a few years. I might even do more training in obstetrics and anaesthetics, and then head up to Thursday Island, the Kimberley or Cape York,” he says.

One of the biggest reasons he chooses to live rurally has to do with community ties.

“It’s wonderful to live in such a close knit community. Everyone knows you and is so appreciative of you being here. They’re such beautiful people who really listen to your advice, and are also so understanding of how busy you are. It’s one part of rural medicine I really like.”

A tip for those considering rural medicine

For registrars who aren’t quite sure about working in a rural or regional area, Kim offers this advice.

“When you first graduate from medical school, consider working in a smaller regional hospital like Toowoomba, Rockhampton or Bundaberg. This will help prepare you to step into a rural and more remote GP practice,” he says.

“Rural practice is really important because it’s your experience that shapes your decisions about where you go in your career. If you’ve never gone out to a rural or remote area for a rotation, and only ever worked in a big city hospital, then that’s all you’ll ever do,” he explains.

Supporting rural registrars

Kim has taken on the role of GPTQ’s Rural Registrar Liaison Officer (RRLO) which acts as an advocate for rural registrars, providing both professional and personal support.

Kim says: “The RRLO role is an important part of GPTQ’s training program because rural registrars are in a different position to their urban counterparts. At times, they can be isolated with minimal supervision, so they really need extra support. It’s imperative to have somebody they can turn to who actually understands what rural practice is really like.”

According to Kim, the most crucial time for rural registrars is during their first few months as they transition from the hospital system to GP practice.

“That time can be tricky and challenging as you’re moving away from a very supportive environment to one that is remote with less supervision. I’m expecting to receive a lot of emails and phone calls from our junior GP registrars, but I’m really looking forward to it,” he says.

As Kim intimately understands what it’s like to be a first-year rural registrar, he is keen to share his experience.

“My job is to offer advice and strategies about how to manoeuvre through their first year. I hope registrars will call or email me if they need help, whether it’s an issue with a lack of supervision, a contract, workplace or clinical query, or help juggling their work-life balance and multiple roles as a rural GP,” he says.

Kim also advocates taking the time to really enjoy the experience.

“You will have a lot of responsibilities, and there will be times where you’ll be challenged intellectually and time-wise, but you’ll also learn a lot. And you’ll come to understand it truly is a privilege to be a rural doctor,” he smiles.