Photo by Andy Chilton

Photo by Andy Chilton

In July 2016, I decided to leave a full time role and pursue my own ventures working independently. I knew that I needed advice and guidance in this process and engaged Susan Young on the recommendations of a good friend. In our first mentoring session, we spoke about the work I’d loved and more importantly who I had loved working with.

I had two particular people in mind from two very different communities and I am exploring initiatives that will enable me to work with both. One of the people I had in mind was a General Practitioner (GP).

From 2012 to 2015, after working in State Government over a number of years, I worked with a  Network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GP registrars. The role was diverse and included project managing activities of the networking, including planning and delivering workshops, liaising with medical and clinical experts and educators to facilitate learning components, policy, advocacy and one on one support for registrars in training. I worked closely with the three Chairs who presided during the time I was there and loved it.

I felt very privileged to have daily conversations with the most amazing people; humble, passionate, smart, funny and determined. I love to be inspired by great minds and community hearts and it was a privilege to be surrounded by such folk in this role. In my discussion with Susan, the realisation that I would love to work in this space again, and that perhaps it could be possible for me to do so as an independent project manager was incredibly exciting for me.

So over the last few months, I have had good conversations with my doctor friends and explored what gaps are in the space, who I might collaborate with and what I might be able to create and support.

There are fantastic organisations in the space who do wonderful work. Among those of most prominence incude the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the State Affiliates who ensure that diverse voices and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and practitioners are heard, influence and indeed lead policy and program activity. There is the Indigenous GP Registrar Network working through General Practice Registrars Australia and the two GP colleges, the Royal Australian College of GPs and the Australian College of Remote and Rural Medicine.

The work done by these organisations is significant and I questioned how I could create something that was of value and respectful and respectful of their roles as a social entrepreneur.

From my discussions with registrar and Fellows I knew that after completing training there weren’t the same opportunities or support available to to gather and learn – not for specifically the important cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs post training.

An important collective within the cohort are doctors who haven’t passed their fellowship exams and are working as non-Vocationally recognised doctors, and in some cases pursuing fellowship through an independent pathway. Dr Aleeta Fejo and Dr Keith Gleeson raised this issue and presented on the attrition of doctors in the Australian General Practice Training Program at the AIDA Conference in 2016 aptly titled ‘Into the Abyss’.

I thought about what I loved about what my work and comments some of the doctors had made to me, that not only was the education provided in the workshops I put together of excellent quality (and this was of course because I’d sought the advice from experts on who would be best to deliver training) but it was also the culturally affirming collegiate support which lifted spirits and refreshed and strengthened the doctors’ professional and sometimes personal resolve.

I would love to continue to create a space for folks to gather, with a program that is designed according to what people want, and to invite people to this to create the magic!

Some GP friends have told me of organisations that run study vacations for GPs and doctors around the world. This seemed like a wonderful concept, combining holidaying and rest with ongoing education and skill development. Having been an observer at workshops I also see that there is much power in a collective. I would love to see what would arise from the group from an opportunity to gather and talk. A gathering for continuing education is an initiative that I have further explored and and I’m planning to hold a first workshop for next year with an excellent educator. It is very exciting!! More hopefully, will come on this soon!