RACGP awards: In Practice

Doug Hendrie

10/10/2018 7:33:58 PM

Dr Bill Sands, Dr Stewart Jackson and Medeco Inala have been honoured in the 2018 RACGP awards.

L–R: Dr Bill Sands is the RACGP’s 2018 GP of the Year; Dr Stewart Jackson is the 2018 recipient of the RACGP Rural Brian Williams Award.
L–R: Dr Bill Sands is the RACGP’s 2018 GP of the Year; Dr Stewart Jackson is the 2018 recipient of the RACGP Rural Brian Williams Award.

The RACGP announced the winners of the 2018 GP of the Year, Brian Williams Award and General Practice of the Year at the GP18 National Academic Fellowship and Awards Ceremony.
GP of the Year
Dr Bill Sands accepted the GP of the Year award with humility, giving credit to his fellow GPs.
‘In my mind, this award is not for any great personal attributes of mine, but as a recognition of the simple persistence and dedication to general practice that I see reflected in so many of my colleagues,’ he told newsGP.
‘This award was most unexpected, but I am very grateful. In many ways, this award is more a testament to my colleagues’ capacities than recognising any special abilities on my part.’
The GP from Western Australia sees his award as representative of all GPs.
‘GPs who have over the years served their communities, using their professional abilities and improving the lives of their patients,’ he said.
Dr Sands has always been passionate about being a GP, and he recalls being attracted to general practice when he first started medical school more than 40 years ago.
‘I remember being drawn to the familiarity of general practice,’ he said.
‘As my career progressed there were times when I considered other pathways, but nothing else offered the freedom and variety of general practice, so I stuck at it.’
It seems he made the right decision, as his career as a GP has brought Dr Sands many rewards.
‘General practice provides breadth of practise and continuity of care more than any other branch of medicine,’ he said. ‘These are precisely the features that attracted me to be a GP in the first place, and continue to be my main motivation.’
With the rewards come challenges, which Dr Sands said is a strong driver of his commitment to continuity of care.
‘Within general practice I have been able to become involved in many areas, including obstetrics, aged care, practice management and engagement with a variety of medical organisations,’ he said.
‘Each area provides is own challenges – there is always a new challenge.’
Dr Sands also feels he is contributing to the future of general practice by helping to shape the next generation of GPs.
‘Teaching students and registrars and looking at the future welfare of the profession itself are my current primary concerns,’ he said.
Brian Williams Award
Long-time Queensland GP Dr Stewart Jackson believes in the power of continuity and connection.
He has served the small Queensland town of Ingham, north of Townsville, for more than two decades. And as the senior GP at Hinchinbrook Healthcare, he has mentored and supported his 35 staff members and their families.
His work has now been recognised with the RACGP Rural Brian Williams Award, which acknowledges a practitioner whose guidance and support enables rural GPs to dedicate themselves to their patients, families and communities.
Dr Jackson told newsGP it is an honour to be recognised in such a way.
‘I am especially honoured by the people who nominated me, who I presume know me and the work I do,’ he said. ‘It is great to feel valued, but I know that many others would be equally deserving of such an award.’
For Dr Jackson, rural general practice is about continuity and connection to the community.
‘The power of continuity allows one to provide an effective and ongoing service to our patients,’ he said. ‘Patients become friends as we navigate life together in our small community. 
‘I also love the fact that I can practise independently and be able to be a generalist in the true sense of the word.’ 
As a junior doctor, Dr Jackson always dreamed of going rural, drawn by the dream lifestyle. The reality, as he discovered, was somewhat different.
‘The reality was probably more confronting, and rural life and practice has immense challenges,’ he said.
But, even with the challenges, Dr Jackson has never thought about heading back to the suburbia in which he grew up. He is a rural GP through and through.
General Practice of the Year
‘Inala does it tough in many ways. Multi-generational unemployment is rife. Economic hardship is the norm. Substance abuse, violence and crime have swept over our suburb like a tsunami.
‘We have been inspired by the people that we treat. Their tenacity and resilience in the face of adversity. Their courage in the face of disease and, above all, their intense connection to family.
‘Family is everything in Inala. Keeping these families healthy is our passion and our purpose. We love our job and we love our practice.’

group-hero.jpgThe Medeco Inala team.
That’s Dr Matt Young, talking about the challenges and joys of running a clinic in a Brisbane suburb known for its difficulties. Inala featured in the second season of the SBS documentary Struggle Street, and the suburb has one of the highest rates of hepatitis C in the country, linked to a high rate of intravenous drug abuse.
But rising to these challenges is exactly why Medeco Inala has been named the RACGP’s 2018 General Practice of the Year.
Medeco Inala had 180 patients with hepatitis C on its books in 2016. Within 18 months, the team had cured 152 of them.
Encouraged by their success, clinic staff launched a mobile hepatitis C service. Two doctors, a nurse and a phelebotomist hop into a cream-coloured 1978 VW Kombi van every week and take to the streets, armed with a fibroscan machine.  
‘We take it to drug rehab centres, drop-in centres, rough-sleeping locations and even street-side venues,’ Dr Young told newsGP. ‘We screen, scan, test and then cure hep C in people who are most disadvantaged, marginalised and excluded from mainstream medical services.
‘We have so far cured over 100 people from hep C. This is the highlight of each our medical lives.’
Dr Young described eradicating the virus as the clinic’s ‘special passion.’
‘The challenges to delivering top-flight medical care are large but rewarding. At Medeco, we have embraced these challenges,’ he said.
Dr Young said winning the award is ‘flattering and affirming.’
‘Our team is really excited, but not just for ourselves,’ he said. ‘We see it as a win for our patients.
‘Without our patients, we have no practice. Even more broadly, it is a win for our humble and very often unjustly maligned suburb of Inala.’
Dr Young said his clinic had a strong team ethos.
‘It is a bit like a cricket team. We all have our roles. We all count on each other,’ he said. ‘No point having gun batsmen if you have no bowlers or your wicket keeper is hopeless.
‘We all back each other to the hilt and really value each other on and off the field. We all share each other’s highlights but, equally, we are there for each other when life turns lousy.
‘Team morale is our greatest asset. I don’t think any of us would ever want to work anywhere else.’
In addition to its work with hepatitis C patients, the clinic, which bulk bills all patients, provides opioid substitution therapy to around 250 people with a dependency. Medeco Inala also trains 10–15 general practice registrars a year. 
Looking forward, the clinic is working with nearby Logan Hospital to launch a mass screening of all emergency department patients for hepatitis C.
‘Positively diagnosed people will then be channelled into our Medeco practice or the hepatitis C Kombi clinic for cure,’ Dr Young said.
‘We have embraced the concept of think national, act local. We have almost totally eradicated hepatitis C from our practice by micro-elimination in a primary care setting.’

brian williams award general practice of the year GP of the year GP18 racgp awards

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