The medical educators ensuring equal opportunities for IMGs

Morgan Liotta

26/03/2024 4:48:39 PM

The Fellowship Support Program has ‘grown enormously’ in the past year, and could expand further should it receive Government support.

Srividya Kota, Kim Goodman
(L–R) Dr Srividya Kota, RACGP Regional Medical Educator for SE Queensland and FSP, and Dr Kim Goodman, Senior FSP Medical Educator. (Images: supplied)

Many medical educators work across the RACGP’s three main programs leading to Fellowship: the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program, the Practice Experience Program (PEP) Specialist Stream, and the Fellowship Support Program (FSP), designed mostly to support international medical graduates (IMGs) entering Australian general practice for the first time.
One of those medical educators dedicated to supporting IMGs is Dr Srividya Kota, who works in the regional South Eastern Queensland training region and FSP space.
Since the launch of the FSP just prior to the return to college-led general practice training in February last year, she said the college has been an ‘exciting space’ to be in.
‘Because we’ve gone from a very small group of the PEP, to now an official group of FSP, and even incorporated a lot of the regional training organisation medical educators who were working in the PEP space, and they’ve all now been nationalised under the umbrella of FSP,’ Dr Kota told newsGP.
‘Those medical educators whom we weren’t able to collaborate with have now come in and they have a very good understanding of all the state-based resources, so that’s been great.’
The support pathway has ‘grown enormously’ in the 12 months since Dr Kota initially joined the PEP team, when there were around 18 other medical educators. The program was also further organised by state and portfolios of senior medical educators, strengthening internal collaboration.
‘It’s been really exciting in that way, because we get to have a really big group of people that we can collaborate with, and they all come from amazing experiences,’ she said.
‘In particular, all of them share that passion of looking after the registrars that, often on FSP, are IMGs, even if they were locally born and for whatever reason, maybe trained in Canada or the UK, but also a significant portion of people who have emigrated and are new Australians.’
Under the FSP, a self-funded education and training program launched in mid-2022 to support non-vocationally registered doctors on their journey to Fellowship, participants can train in accredited practices in regional and rural areas around Australia (MMM2–7).
The RACGP is calling for funding for 500 participants in the FSP and 600 in the PEP Specialist Stream as part of its key pre-Budget submission 2024–25 to boost Australia’s general practice workforce and get more GPs into communities in need.
For the coming year, Dr Kota has a particular focus towards understanding the learning experience of IMG graduates, noting that regardless of where they were born there are ‘subtle differences’ from training outside Australia.
‘With the model of training being quite decentralised thus far, a lot has been neglected in understanding that space of medical education for our colleagues who had their primary degree elsewhere,’ she said.
‘We see a lot of that subtlety come into play at the very pinnacle of the training, which is that Fellowship exam, the understanding of how they perceive assessments and unfortunately, the passing of it.
‘And we try to assess them more fairly … try to not conform people who come from a culturally and linguistically diverse [CALD] background in the learning and studying model that is predominantly Australian.
‘[People from CALD backgrounds] have this huge cultural overlay to put up with, along with a new country and new contextual understanding of the political system.
‘My focus now is to get a really good understanding of that learned experience and how we are catering for it or what their experiential life in Australia is, and how that’s done.’
Dr Kim Goodman also sits on the FSP senior medical education team supporting IMGs. She told newsGP it’s been ‘a huge privilege’ to be part of the development of the ‘innovative’ FSP.
‘Most of us who’ve come on to the program are really passionate about that group of doctors, in particular, having access to good quality training and medical education that is suited to their specific needs,’ Dr Goodman said.
‘Many of our doctors work by necessity in regional and remote Australia, and often for different reasons, are quite marginalised. So I’m really passionate about those registrars having equal opportunity to access high-quality general practice education and training as their counterparts in the AGPT Program.’
For Queensland-based Dr Kota, while she ‘loves everything’ about general practice, she arrived to it through a long-winded route.
Initially embarking on an engineering degree before choosing medicine, she was lucky to have ‘fantastic’ exposure to general practice as a medical student on a three-month placement in the Torres Strait on Thursday Island.
‘That was probably when I first got a really good understanding of what GPs could do and how involved they are,’ she said.
‘After being seconded to hospitals and other places … it was just amazing to see the breadth and scope of your GP, but also just the very practical nature of how they conduct themselves.
‘That really stood out to me, because in my past life, I’m an engineer which is quite different.
‘Luckily for me, all of the GPs through all my training … have just been fantastic and they really impressed upon me how amazing being a medical educator is.’
Meanwhile, Dr Goodman was inspired for more personal reasons, after many years of working in hospital medicine and emergency.
‘After my twins were born, I had a really incredible experience with a GP who looked after me through the perinatal period when I was quite unwell,’ she said.
‘I couldn’t really value more the difference that she made to our family, and I found that very inspiring for me career-wise, so in terms of what I love, it’s probably connected to that.
‘I really love the privilege of caring for the whole family … [and] find it endlessly rewarding and fascinating to be part of the human experience and to really partner with people as they care about their own health.’
Looking to the year ahead, Dr Goodman is excited to continue working with colleagues from all states and territories.
‘Being part of general practice training does really widen the opportunity to learn from each other and to share knowledge and skills and ideas right across the country,’ she said.
Medical educators with the FSP are all mapped with the national educators, Dr Kota said, so each has a cohort of registrars to mentor throughout the two-year program.
‘I’m super excited that this last year has really recognised the important space FSP has fulfilled in college-led training,’ she said.
‘And more and more we’ve got such a diverse workforce in our general practice community.
‘The eventual goal is it doesn’t really matter, a medical educator is a medical educator, whether they work in AGPT or FSP – they’ve got all of the skillset for that work.’
To coincide with the one-year anniversary of the return to college-led general practice training, newsGP will continue to profile medical educators working across the training regions over the next month.
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Dr Mark Robert Miller   27/03/2024 11:05:00 PM

Any doctor undertaking training for general practice deserves all the support available to make it a fulfilling and sustainable career. I commend Dr Kota and Dr Goodman for providing the support required for this important cohort in our College through the PEP and FSP pathways.
With an engineering degree and a medical degree, I hope we don't lose Dr. Kota as the first GP on a long space mission. ( Because everyone needs a good GP )

Dr Kai Zhang   2/04/2024 10:35:37 AM

equal opportunity for IMGs - is it a dream for the future?
with the restriction of ten-year Memorandum which limits entry for free competition, where is equal opportunities?