Interview

Life after winning an RACGP Rural Award


Morgan Liotta


26/08/2020 3:34:51 PM

With nominations for outstanding achievements in rural health open, newsGP checks in with past winners to see how life has changed.

Landscape picture of rural setting.
Nominations are open for RACGP Rural 2020 awards until 5.00 pm on 31 August.

What’s life like after being recognised by the RACGP for outstanding contributions to rural health?
 
Dr Kate Davey, 2019 Brian Williams award recipient; Dr Kate Fox, Rural registrar of the Year for 2018; Winnie Yum, 2017 Rural Medical Student Bursary recipient; and winner of the 2019 Community Project of the Year Dr Sophia Gordon join newsGP to discuss rural health, what they have been up to, and what the awards have meant for them.
 
Dr Kate Davey ­– Brian Williams 2019
What have you been up to since winning the award?
I have continued in rural general practice and like the rest of the general practice world, I am trying to adapt to the challenges and impact of the COVID pandemic.
 
Whilst initially our practice noticed a reduction in patient presentations, this has reverted more towards normal in recent weeks, although globally numbers are still reduced.
 
Thankfully it appears that the high influenza vaccination rate, the practice of social distancing and hand hygiene have significantly reduced the incidence of influenza, and curiously the burden of upper respiratory illness in general, so far this winter. I remain concerned about the patients who are delaying presenting to the clinic with new symptoms of significant illness.
 
On the educational front, I have been on a very steep learning curve as I am adapting to teaching in the virtual environment [whereas] I previously taught face-to-face. I have found it particularly interesting to reflect on and then teach clinicians about utilising telehealth platforms in a safe and effective manner.
 
Like many GPs, the concept of telehealth was very new to me and I felt very much like a brand new registrar in my first week of practice as I struggled to embrace the new technology. Fortunately, with the help of my generous patients, I have learnt to adapt to this difficult environment and although I do not believe that the virtual platform can successfully replace the value of face-to-face exposure, I can see that it can be utilised effectively in many circumstances.
 
How did winning the Brian Williams award in 2019 help you with your work in rural health?
Winning the award was simultaneously an enormous honour and a big surprise.
 
I don’t believe that it has changed my approach to the educational activities I undertake in the undergraduate or postgraduate sphere, but it is quite reassuring that my peers have acknowledged that what I have been doing is useful for our learners.

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Dr Kate Davey, 2019 Brian Williams award winner. 

What do you most enjoy about working in rural health?
I am exceedingly fortunate to work with an enthusiastic, resilient, innovative and supportive rural general practice team.
 
All members of our team, administrative and clinical, share a common vision of providing the highest quality general practice to the members of our community across their lifespans.
 
What I most enjoy is the longevity of the relationships that I have developed with my patient population; however, this sometimes also causes me the greatest sadness, as together we chart and experience the patient’s journey.
 
What are your plans for the future?
For the moment, I am not planning to fundamentally change what I do in either the clinical or educational sphere.
 
I hope to continue to refine and extend my expertise with utilising the virtual space as a learning platform, as I suspect that as our current pandemic environment hopefully becomes more manageable, some of the innovative changes will persist.
 
The optimist in me is ever hopeful that something good must arise from our current situation.
 
Dr Kate Fox ­– Rural Registrar of the Year Award 2018
What have you been up to since winning the award?
I have been living and working in the Kimberley for the last couple of years and intend on staying for a while at least. My husband and I are looking forward to the arrival of our first baby in October and I think it’s fair to say the Kimberley has definitely gotten under our skin. We both enjoy our jobs and love the lifestyle the Kimberley offers.
 
I am currently working part time for two different organisations as a GP. At Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services I provide outreach clinical support to Bidyadanga Community, I supervise general practice registrars and medical students, and contribute to protocols, procedures and policy formulation and implementation.
 
At Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Services, I work clinically and supervise medical students. I enjoy the diversity, challenges and comradery of working for these two different organisations and communities.
 
How did winning the RACGP Rural Registrar of the Year Award in 2018 help you with your work in rural health?
Winning the award in 2018 came as a quite a shock. I was honoured to think that GPs who I really look up to and admire thought that I was worthy of nomination.
 
It gave me the confidence I needed to have faith in myself and the way I practice rural and remote Aboriginal healthcare. It also inspired me to learn more, challenge myself and to continue to contribute in a meaningful way to an area of healthcare I am passionate about.

Dr-Kate-Fox-article.jpg Rural Registrar of the Year for 2018, Dr Kate Fox.
 
What do you most enjoy about working in rural health?
I feel very privileged to have been able to learn so much about the oldest continuing culture in the world [Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture] through my work and travels, and I am excited about how much more I have to learn.
 
I get a lot of satisfaction from contributing at the grassroots level and actually making a tangible difference to people’s lives. The relationships I have formed with patients and so many like-minded colleagues along the way is something I will always treasure. The lifestyle that comes with living and working in the Kimberley is second to none.
 
What are your plans for the future?
We plan on staying in the Kimberley for a while yet, but with no clear long-term plan. We will just take it as it comes. At this point, I think working in Aboriginal health will be a part of my life for some time to come.
 
Winnie Yum – Rural Medical Student Bursary Award 2017
What have you been up to since winning the award?
I got onto the Rural Generalist Pathway after graduating, and have been working in Mount Isa Hospital since internship. Over the past three years I have achieved my Emergency Medicine Certificate and Rural Generalist Pre-Vocational Certificate.
 
How did winning the RACGP Rural Medical Student Bursary Award in 2017 help you with your work in rural health?
The award was a great motivator and reaffirmed my desire to work rural. It gave me the confidence to apply for an intern position in Mount Isa, even though I had never been there before, or to any city so remote.

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Winnie Yum, recipient of the Rural Medical Student Bursary Award in 2017.
 
What do you most enjoy about working in rural health?
No traffic – it takes me seven minutes to get to work. Of course, there is also the breadth of practice and the increased continuity of care you get with your patients.
 
What are your plans for the future?
I am planning to work in the Northern Territory next year to further my training in obstetrics before I continue my journey as a rural generalist.
 
Dr Sophia Gordon – Community Project of the Year Award 2019
What have you been up to since winning the award?
Since I won the award, the main thing I’ve achieved is growing another human and going onto maternity leave. Having two kids has been busy enough.

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Winner of the 2019 Community Project of the Year, Dr Sophia Gordon.
 
What are your plans for the future?
Career-wise, I’m just looking forward to getting back to work at the Aboriginal Medical Service I’ve taken leave from. I’m also looking forward to getting more into medical education and general practice registrar supervision.
 
Nominations are open for the following RACGP Rural 2020 awards until 5.00 pm 31 August: 

  • Brian Williams
  • Rural GP in Training of the Year (previously Rural Registrar of the Year Award)
  • Community Project of the Year
  • Medical Student Bursary
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