‘The most amazing opportunity’: Final intake for 2022 AGPT Program

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

17/09/2021 4:13:01 PM

As AGPT intake draws to a close, new Fellows reflect on their experiences and what that led them to a career in general practice.

A group of GPs talking.
Positions for the 2022 AGPT Program are still available in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

For registrars considering a career in general practice, final intake for the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program is now open, with a limited number of positions available.
Applicants can choose whether to pursue the general or rural pathway, and can nominate up to four regions where they would like to carry out their training.
Dr Cristina Valero, member of the RACGP’s SA&NT New Fellows Committee, obtained her Fellowship last year after completing the rural pathway. Her decision to apply was inspired after a stint in rural South Australia – though she admits it wasn’t originally part of the plan.
‘I remember going through med school and telling them quite specifically in my interview that I was not going to do rural training,’ Dr Valero told newsGP.
‘Then I had an opportunity to go out as an intern to Jamestown and Peterborough … and I just absolutely fell in love with it.’
Up until that point, she had had little opportunity through university to experience general practice and was surprised at the variety it offered.
‘You get the biases from the hospital and biases from your colleagues saying the classic tears and smears. But then I got out there and realised that you could manage your patients from start to finish,’ Dr Valero said.
‘You could see them in the clinic if they were sick, you admitted them to hospital, then you discharged them and you saw them for follow up. You could do procedural stuff and emergency.
‘I could never really decide what I liked in particular in medicine, and this was the most amazing opportunity to do everything that I wanted to do – and I liked the people too.
‘People think general practice is so isolated, but it’s just such a nice cohesive community and the colleagues and friends I’ve made here are just sensational.’
New Fellow Dr Melanie Matthews has had a similar experience in the Northern Territory.
It was while spending three months as a junior doctor in Maningrida through the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP) that she decided to apply for AGPT, and says she hasn’t looked back.
‘I just really, really loved it,’ Dr Matthews told newsGP. ‘I decided that it was Aboriginal Health that I wanted to work in, and that the NT was the right place for that.’
Her training program was delivered through Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE), and she says it was ‘very supportive’, with opportunities throughout the year for registrars to come together.
‘I thought it was excellent,’ Dr Matthews said.
‘They were able to provide a really personalised program because a lot of the medical educators were also supervisors and GPs working, and so you got to know everyone really well. Even now, the contacts that I have are really important to my work in the Northern Territory.’
Positions for the 2022 AGPT Program’s General and Rural Pathways are still available in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Dr Sean Black-Tiong, Chair of the RACGP’s National Faculty for GPs in Training, says what makes the AGPT Program so appealing is that as well as being well-supported, participants have a lot of opportunities.
‘Overall, general practice training has that great scope of practice to be able to do lots of different things,’ he told newsGP.
‘And one of the main advantages is that better sense of community and connection to your patients than you would otherwise get in the hospital.’
Though Dr Black-Tiong undertook his training through the General Pathway in Adelaide, he says it was the year he spent as a medical student in Whyalla, on South Australia’s east coast, that led him to pursue general practice.
‘Being placed at general practice clinics there, I found that was really rewarding,’ he said. ‘Just seeing how different and varied and exciting it can be.’
It is the broad scope of practice, under the supervision of an experienced GP, that he says is a great way for registrars to explore their ‘undifferentiated passion’.
‘You’re not going to just end up doing a very small subset of the population; like it’s not going to be heavily weighted towards paediatrics or aged care patients – you do a bit of everything,’ Dr Black-Tiong said.
‘Whatever you end up going into, even if that is urban general practice, having that background in your training is really valuable.’
Dr Valero enjoyed the AGPT experience, particularly having a supervisor and medical educator on site, to the extent that she has since returned to become a medical educator.
While committing to the program is a big decision, she says it is important for registrars to remember the variety of opportunities that general practice, and particularly rural medicine, present.
‘We forget that hospital medicine is such a small part of medicine and … primary care shouldn’t be something discounted because people haven’t been able to try it beforehand,’ Dr Valero said.
‘If you know you want to apply to GP training, I’d say the best time to go rural is in your training time because you know you’re going to have really close supervision, you’re going to have a lot of support, and it opens up so many doors later on for if you decide you want to go rural one week a month or full-time.’
Dr Matthews agrees.
‘The rural and remote experience is very special,’ she said.
‘The communities that you get to work in, it’s a very different experience to working in a city and you’re often working in a team environment, which is really great … and you get a really broad range of experience.
‘So give it a go and see if you like it.’
Applications for the final intake of the 2022 AGPT Program close at 11.59 pm (AEST) on Tuesday 21 September 2021. More information, including resources to assist with the application process, is available on the RACGP website.  
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