At GPTQ, we have a strong commitment to reducing health inequalities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Working in Indigenous health can be exciting, rewarding and challenging. We hope you’ll consider this important field of medicine as you undertake your GP training. Get inspired with these insights from 11 doctors.
Dr John Buckley, GP and medical educator at GPTQ:
“Doctors with an open mind and a genuine interest in making a difference to people’s lives are always welcomed and supported to work in Aboriginal Community Controlled Settings and Aboriginal Medical Services. My time working in Aboriginal Health in Queensland has been rich and fulfilling. It offers daily opportunities to practice holistic medicine, to learn about some of the oldest continuing cultures in the world, to collaborate in broad clinical teams and to really make a difference. It’s an ideal career choice if you thrive in a supported multidisciplinary environment and enjoy varied clinical and psychosocial work.”
Victoria Grieves, ARC Indigenous Research Fellow at University of Sydney:
“The wellbeing of Indigenous people is based around having the freedom and resources to practise cultural ways of being. While some of these can seem removed from those in the West – such as the lack of materialism, primacy of kin and a close relationship to the natural world – including them in mainstream culture can contribute to everyone’s wellbeing.”
Dr Tu Pham, GP in Ipswich and former GPTQ registrar:
“I think a lot of doctors, if they are not involved in the area they get a bit scared or a bit apprehensive about it. I think the best way to become proficient at it is to just do it, just launch yourself into it.”
Dr Peter O’Mara, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association:
“I’m a Wiradjuri man, my family’s country is Mudgee, Rolleston, Glen Davis, Portland, Lithgow, down the back of the Blue Mountains and a lot of the Wollemi National Park is our land… while I was working in the coal mines I injured my back in a car accident… I knew I would have to look for something else… [one day] I had a break for some lunch and put the TV on, and back in the day the Midday Show was on with Ray Martin, and Louis Peachey and Sandra Eades were being interviewed, and they were the first two Indigenous doctors to graduate from the University of Newcastle and first of all I thought ‘What – there are Aboriginal doctors?’ I couldn’t believe it. I had an overwhelming sense of pride and was thinking ‘Wow – this is amazing’. Hearing Lewis and Sandy being interviewed by Ray, I thought ‘Well, they are just normal guys, they may be smart but they are normal people, I can do this!’. So I sat my exams and everything… and got in. Along the way, knowing that an Aboriginal community and Aboriginal people were going to benefit from me being a doctor was a real solid driver for me”.
Dr Cameron Halliday, GP:
“When I worked in Indigenous health, I got so much out of it… from meeting my patients, from a cultural perspective, from a learning perspective…. It’s no secret about the burden of chronic disease in Indigenous health… it’s actually quite helpful to be exposed to these very complicated patients during your training and even as a registrar you can make a difference. It can be immensely rewarding. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has even the slightest interest”.
Dr Liz Wearne, GP Supervisor:
” For those of us who took up medicine, we have a true curiosity for other people and a desire to help. Working in Aboriginal Health really awakens that purpose again.”
Dr Brad Murphy, GP in Bundaberg and GP supervisor:
“The people are truly appreciative, and you do see long term benefits and outcomes, and you touch people’s hearts and souls… if you do Aboriginal health well, you’ll be a better doctor.”
Dr Peter O’Mara, Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association:
“Communication has been incredibly easy, it’s really easy to sit down and say ‘where are you from?’ rather than ‘what do you do?’… relating to patients is a lot easier in an AMS but the clinical presentations can sometimes be a bit tricky. The huge team that is around, it’s really great. I’ve never worked anywhere else where I can get an Aboriginal Health Worker to be present in the room with me if I’ve got a patient who is going through acute grief. Or, I can say ‘Look, this person needs an anti-psychotic injection but they don’t have any money, can we organise that?’ and someone will run to the pharmacy.”
Dr Justin Coleman, GP and GPsupervisor:
“I love the broad nature of it. I love that there are so many directions even within Indigenous health. You can go rural, you can go urban, you can have an academic career alongside it, you can have a special interest career. It’s one niche in medicine which I think is open to all sorts of possibilities.”
“A highlight is working with a group of very dedicated doctors who are committed to teaching students and registrars, and evidence-based medicine. The doctors regularly socialize together through a journal club, informal debates about the latest research evidence, or over a casual lunch in one of the many Vietnamese restaurants nearby! GPs and their patients are very well supported as there is a large team on site – including nurses, allied health, community workers and researchers. There is very little GP turnover because the work is interesting and collegiate and, the service continues to put on more GPs as it grows. The local shopping centre is just next door.”
Dr Adrian Castelli, Toowoomba:
“It’s a really great job to work in; it’s been my favorite experience in medicine… I look forward to coming into work..a lot of people had warnings for me but it was really no different to any other job that I had. I mean, the processes were pretty much the same, and the expectations of clients were pretty much the same as well. I think the thing I noticed was that the amount of support that we had, the amount of programs, the amount of pathways that we could send patients to was amazing and actually it is something that you can really sink your teeth into… to see someone’s HbA1c drop down, you know, 3 or 4 percent is huge… I’d never saw that in mainstream medicine.”
Dr Jessica Madsen, GP registrar, Carbal Warwick:
“Work at Carbal is exceptionally interesting and fulfilling. I feel a strong social responsibility to do what I can to help ‘Close the Gap’ and I’m grateful to Carbal and the community for giving me the opportunity to work with them.”