The GP who helped win an AFLW premiership

Doug Hendrie

23/05/2019 11:47:24 AM

Juggling professional footy and work as a registrar can be a challenge, but comes with major rewards for Dr Jess Foley.

Dr Jess Foley
Doctor and AFLW player Dr Jess Foley knows a thing or two about juggling careers.

General practice registrar Dr Jess Foley spends the traditional working week in an emergency department in Adelaide.
But on the weekends, she takes to the field to play for the Adelaide Crows in the Australian Football League Women’s (AFLW).
The Crows won the AFLW Premiership to a huge cheering home crowd at Adelaide Oval in March, just months after Dr Foley was drafted into the team.
‘It was so amazing to win a premiership in front of 53,000 people,’ she told newsGP.
‘It felt like a really significant moment for female athletes.’
Dr Foley came to football only recently after a bright basketball career, in which she represented Australia and was the captain of Adelaide Lightning in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).
Football wasn’t on her radar until the AFLW started up in 2017. Dr Foley told MJA Insight that, at the time, she thought her professional sport days were over.
‘I thought that was all behind me. Then the AFLW started, this opportunity came up, and as a kid, I would love to have played footy,’ she said. ‘I thought, I’ve got to give it a go.’
For Dr Foley, juggling two demanding careers is nothing new.
‘As a female athlete, I’ve been juggling study or work with my sporting commitments for most of my life,’ she said.
‘Fortunately, football isn’t a full-time commitment in the women’s AFL yet, so our training times are generally out of work hours.’
Finding time for medical treatment and recovery sessions can be a challenge, but her workplace and club have both been very accommodating. Many other Adelaide players juggle the semi-professional AFLW with careers as police officers, paramedics, nurses and teachers.
Dr Foley has found football to be a great antidote to the stress of medicine.
‘Going to footy and working hard, it’s easy to just forget the day and focus your energy on your training and skills,’ she said. ‘The girls are all great characters as well, so I’m always laughing and having a good time when I get to the club. 
‘It’s nice to be around people working in completely different areas and coming from diverse backgrounds. If you are constantly around medically-minded people you tend to dwell on work and only talk about work.  
‘There’s nothing like being on a sporting team. The camaraderie you have after going through tough training sessions, travelling together and playing games is really special and it was something I missed after finishing my WNBL basketball career in 2015. 
‘Footy has been a great outlet for me away from medicine, somewhere I can go after work and have a laugh and work up a sweat.
‘I’m very passionate about medicine and it’s where my future career will be spent, but for now it’s great to be able to fit in two of my big interests – medicine and sport.’
Dr Foley’s early interest in medicine was first piqued by her mother, who worked as a practice nurse. While studying at Duke University in the US, Dr Foley met a doctor at the local medical centre who let her shadow him at work. That experience set her on her course. After returning to Australia, she started graduate medicine in 2013.
‘I’m proud I made the decision at the end of my basketball career to go back and study again as a mature-aged student,’ she said. ‘It was a passion of mine that I always put on the back burner and I’m glad I bit the bullet and applied.’ 
Dr Foley quickly gravitated towards general practice, drawn by the variety of life as a GP.
‘You can see a bit of everything but also specialise in a few areas of interest,’ she said.
And the future?
‘Hopefully I retire from footy with an intact body,’ she said.
‘I’d love to be working as a GP with an interest in sports medicine in the future, but I’m sure there are other interests that will pop up along the way.’

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