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IWD: Taking the plunge


Morgan Liotta


8/03/2022 2:31:02 PM

From the tropics to the polar ice caps, Dr Lizzie Elliott is hoping her journey can inspire other female junior doctors to consider general practice.

Dr Lizzie Elliott
Dr Lizzie Elliott enjoys the diversity and challenges her roles as a GP and hyperbaric and diving medicine specialist provide.

For Dr Lizzie Elliott, becoming a GP wasn’t always on the cards.
 
‘I resisted general practice initially as I considered it not “exciting” enough − it didn’t appeal to my desire to travel, take risks and be challenged. Clearly, I was wrong,’ she told newsGP.
 
‘Had I done any other specialist training I would not have had the opportunities that have been made available along the way.’
 
While initially hesitant, Dr Elliott says the decision to pursue a career in general practice empowered her to fulfill a passion for diversity, travel and adventure.
 
But aside from the clinical variety and opportunity for life experiences, Dr Elliott has also enjoyed the flexibility afforded by general practice, which she says is unique within medicine – particularly for women.
 
‘Being a female and a GP is particularly attractive as the degree of autonomy, sub-specialist practice, and flexibility with working hours is second to none,’ she said.
 
‘The dynamic nature of the job means that my caseload is always interesting, [while] the flexibility of my role as a GP means I can follow other interests inside and outside of medicine.
 
‘We can recreate ourselves into any facet of medicine – surgery, education, business, and more.’
 
After a year interning in Tasmania, it was not long before Dr Elliott’s itchy feet led her to seek remote medical officer positions in the Arctic and Antarctic.
 
Since then, her work has taken her to all corners of the globe, including Greenland, the Solomon Islands and Antarctica, as an expedition medical officer providing scientific diving medical support.
 
She now specialises in hyperbaric and diving medicine at the Royal Hobart Hospital SPUMS unit.
 
‘General practice has allowed me the privilege to work and travel to many countries,’ Dr Elliott said.
 
‘Without the broad scope of practice that [it] encompasses, I would never have had such an exciting career.
 
‘I love the diversity that all of the facets of general practice provide – being an advocate for my patients and being permitted insight into their lives and how their background, education and belief systems influence their health.’
 
As a medical student at James Cook University, Dr Elliott said she was exposed to many ‘inspiring and passionate’ GPs across Australia, as well as during her hospital training.
 
‘This rotation gave me good insight into the autonomy and scope of practice that being a GP allows early in my career,’ she said.
 
She also acknowledges her local training with the RACGP as being ‘very supportive and accommodating’ of her extra interests and pursuits. 
   
In addition to dual roles as a GP in the community and within the local public hospital in Tasmania, Dr Elliott is now focused on furthering her hyperbaric and diving medicine career, as well as combining extra study into lifestyle medicine.
 
‘[They are] two very contrasting, yet complimentary scopes of practice,’ she said.
 
‘The burgeoning chronicity of disease has encouraged me to review my practice and to start focusing more on “life scripts” with specific information around using nutrition to heal the body.
 
‘It’s exciting, empowering patients to [for example] reverse their fatty liver and type 2 diabetes.’
 
With more female GPs joining the workforce, the proportion of female versus male GPs is slowly increasing – but issues of gender inequality continue to plague the healthcare workforce as well as the broader community.
 
Nonetheless, Dr Elliott is proud to be an active contributor to the female workforce and hopes she can inspire other female junior doctors to consider the same career path by spreading words of empowerment.
 
‘International Women’s Day is a wonderful occasion to promote our unique brand as female GPs and how we are providing exemplary care across a diverse range of healthcare settings,’ she said.
 
‘I would also like to take the opportunity to acknowledge those who identify as gender diverse and applaud their significant contribution to healthcare.
 
‘GPs are a truly inspiring bunch.’
 
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