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‘My dream was Australia’: A new GP’s tale of red tape and persistence


Jolyon Attwooll


25/04/2023 4:46:54 PM

From petrol station attendant to Townsville GP, the route to Fellowship for Dr Nitin Chaudhary has been far from straightforward.

Dr Nitin Chaudhary
Dr Nitin Chaudhary gained Fellowship at a Townsville ceremony in Queensland last month – a 15-year journey which had more than its fair share of struggles and triumph.

Every aspiring RACGP Fellow grapples with challenges as they work towards a fully-fledged career in general practice.
 
But Dr Nitin Chaudhary, who gained Fellowship at a Townsville ceremony in Queensland last month, has perhaps faced a few more than most.
 
Only a few years ago, Dr Chaudhary was working at the Matilda petrol station in Bundaberg – an unconventional but necessary first step towards converting many years of study into recognised Australian qualifications.
 
Born in Pamol in India, Dr Chaudhary gained a medical degree in his home state of Gujarat, where he then deepened his clinical knowledge with chemical pathology studies.
 
Following his wedding to his wife, Hetal, in 2014 he prepared to fulfil a long-held ambition to make a life for himself overseas.
 
‘My dream was to come to Australia since I graduated in 2008,’ he told newsGP, saying he was fuelled by hopes of good working conditions and future opportunities.
 
Arriving in Bundaberg, where Hetal – who already had permanent residency – was living at the time, Dr Chaudhary realised it would be a while before he could apply his academic qualifications in his new home.
 
‘Initially when I moved here, you need to survive so you need to do some kind of job,’ he said.
 
‘Obviously without clearing exams, I was not able to have any kind of medical-related job, so I initially worked for a couple of months in a petrol station.’
 
Soon after, he passed exams at the Australian Institute of Medical and Clinical Scientists, allowing him to gain a job at an IVF clinic in Western Australia – work he balanced with studies for the Australian Medical Council (AMC) assessments.
 
General practice had still not entered on the radar, with Dr Chaudhary choosing instead to concentrate on the challenge closest at hand.
 
‘I was like, “Okay, let’s clear the AMC [exams] and we’ll see what we can do next”,’ he recalls.
 
Dr Chaudhary ticked off the theory exam – the AMC MCQ – in November 2016, and began the hard graft for the practical clinical exam the following May. That time proved to be a finely balanced race between professional and personal milestones, Dr Chaudhary recalls.
 
With an exam on 6 May, and the couple’s first baby due on 8 May, he admits to praying that his luck would hold and that everything, including the arrival of his unborn son, would stick to schedule.
 
‘It’s not a good thing to do,’ he laughed. ‘But obviously I was wishing this timeline would fall properly, and that the exam is done before my baby comes.
 
‘And guess what? That thing happened. My baby decided to wait. I took the exam and my result came on 11th and my baby came on the 12th. He waited until my results had come in and I passed the exam!’
 
Having also navigated another hurdle – the IELTS language exam – Dr Chaudhary was about to embark on what he now describes as ‘the real struggle’.
 
He put in more than 200 applications right across Australia, including Alice Springs, Orange in regional NSW, and Box Hill in suburban Melbourne.
 
For a long time, he got precisely nowhere.
 
He believes red tape was the biggest obstacle, citing in particular a common requirement for applicants to have AHPRA registration before making a job offer, while AHPRA requires a job offer before registration.
 
‘It is kind of a Catch-22,’ Dr Chaudhary said. ‘Without registration, you can’t get a job, and without a job offer you can’t have registration. It is so frustrating.
 
‘It’s not only me. I could see lots of international graduates coming here like me, particularly going through the Australian Medical Council pathway.
 
‘They are still struggling with this kind of scenario.’

Nitin-profile-article.jpgBefore becoming an RACGP Fellow, Dr Nitin Chaudhary spent months working at a petrol station in Bundaberg.
 
After months of sending applications, he received a more encouraging response from a hospital – but there was another bureaucratic catch. Dr Chaudhary was told he fell short of recency of practice standards which require at least one month’s exposure to clinical practice in the past 12 months, or at least three months in the past three years.
 
Leaving his wife and six-month old son Neel behind, he duly went back to India to get the requisite clinical experience.
 
However, on his return three months later, he was told there was no longer any vacancy.
 
‘It was a big, big, big blow for me,’ he said. ‘So I was waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, and continuing to apply still.’
 
Finally, another opportunity cropped up and almost a year and a half after passing his final AMC exam, Dr Chaudhary and his family moved back to Queensland where he began a residency at the Townsville University Hospital.
 
Able to work at last as a medical doctor in Australia, Dr Chaudhary began to hear the call of general practice.
 
‘I was like, “where do I go?”, when you’ve a fresh medical mind, you say, “oh, I want to do this, I want to do that”, there are hundreds of ideas running in your brain.
 
‘I came to know that other specialists have knowledge about their own field but not about the general field.
 
‘Then I realised that the true sense of working in a community is as a general practitioner, where you will know almost everything, you help the whole community.’
 
With his wife now also qualified as a nurse, Dr Chaudhary began to navigate the tightrope of work, fatherhood and intense studies for RACGP Fellowship, which culminated last September.
 
Currently he is working part time in the hospital’s Persistent Pain Management Service, cutting down his hours following the arrival of a second son, Neeom, who was born shortly after his final Fellowship exams.
 
So how does he view the journey from his petrol station role to the present day, with the sacrifices he and his family have had to make both here in Australia and in India?
 
‘Obviously, it was a big challenge,’ he said. ‘But in the end, they all are happy that I am here where I should be.
 
‘I’m still looking forward and I’m not tired yet, I’m still going.’
 
Nonetheless, Dr Chaudhary believes the extent of the difficulties he experienced were not necessary, and points out his struggles took place despite his permanent residency. Others who need visa sponsorship have it even tougher, he believes.
 
With the RACGP strongly advocating for red tape reduction, Dr Chaudhary believes support is most key in the early stages following arrival.
 
‘Things are getting harder and harder,’ he said. ‘When you move, you are initially always exposed to culture shock.
 
‘Being a doctor, you have lots of help available, but when you are not a doctor there is not much.
 
‘Obviously, you need to show your competency before you work in the health system. I agree with that, with the exams … but if it was better supported, then I am sure that we would have more overseas trained doctors coming in and helping with the workforce shortage.’
 
With his own GP goal now reached, Dr Chaudhary plans to return to general practice later this year.
 
While noting the current challenges facing the profession – he mentions payroll tax, and rising membership fees as examples – he is looking forward to a return to the clinical and generational variety of his chosen speciality.
 
‘I think the GP is the best person to support the community 95 times out of 100,’ he said.
 
‘Sometimes you see four different generations of patients.
 
‘For example, I was seeing a lady who came in with great-grandkids, and I was like, “wow, the whole family”.
 
‘That’s an amazing experience.’
 
Details of a mentoring program for International Medical Graduates are available on the RACGP website.
 
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AHPRA IMG International Medical Graduates red tape


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Dr Susan Juliana Fernandes   26/04/2023 5:33:19 AM

Congratulations Dr. Chaudhary ! Well done.


Anonymous   26/04/2023 6:16:24 AM

If doctor decide to move to another country - it will be problem with AMC - they refuse to verify AMC certificates/exams to other authorities.
I already had 3 rejections, AMC has been difficult to verify their own AMC certificate for over 7 (seven) months and still ongoing.
If I would know that Australia is so obstructive and unreasonable, I would never invested so much in AMC


Anonymous   26/04/2023 11:17:55 AM

Perhaps the difficulties faced by “Australian grown” medical doctors trying to achieve “good working conditions and future opportunities” overseas in very different cultures, is very similar? In our own publications, I would love Australia to be portrayed with appreciation and respect, not subtly accused of being unwelcoming. Welcome Dr Chaudhary and your family to our land!


Dr Inderjit Singh Ludher   26/04/2023 12:16:33 PM

There are a few options that can make this whole journey much more possible .
A doctor graduating with MBBS in India , can apply to work in Malaysia as a Doctor in Malaysian Government service and after getting a working Visa , can apply to be a member of the Academy of Family Physicians in Malaysia . Then he can join the GCFM for the Diploma in Family Medicine . Once he has passed the DFM exam , he can then apply for the AFTM qualification and apply for the RACGP study and preparations for for the 3 year RACGP examinations . Once he has passed the RACGP and recieved the Scrool of passing , He can then apply to for a job in Australia . There are many jobs available in the Regional and Rural areas . It will take time but if he works hard and well , there will come a time when he can finally come to work in Urban Australia . (drisludher@gmail.com)


Dr Abdul Ahad Khan   26/04/2023 4:22:52 PM

I admire your Resilience & your Tenacity, Nitin.
Welcome to Australia !
Dr. Ahad Khan


Dr Evan Nicholls   27/04/2023 8:15:15 PM

I have, or I had, the extraordinary pleasure of working with Dr Chaudhary. Nitin is one of the greatest doctors and best people I have met in my life.


A.Prof Christopher David Hogan   29/04/2023 12:04:47 PM

With the loss of Australian graduates from General Practice training programs, IMGs are desperately needed & have been for years.
But they must be treated with respect & assisted through bureaucracy, through specialist GP training programs & assisted to integrate into the many & varied Australian cultural expectations.
We also need to help their families settle in a strange land.
They have all given up their countries to come to our sunburnt country for a chance for a better life- to practice at their peak, to escape conflict, for freedom of religion ,for equality of the sexes & a normal life we too often take for granted.
My extended family includes first nation people & generations of immigrants- everyone needs a fair go.