I thought that in my first post that I should give you an idea of where I’m from and the journey of how I got to Tassie.
Unlike the vast majority of population movement in Tasmania I moved to Tasmania in 2001 and apart from a brief sojourn to Melbourne for 2 years in 2006/07, I've lived here ever since. Unlike Leo Schofield I decided that I quite liked it here and the lifestyle of Tassie was one of the main reasons my family and I returned to Hobart at the end of 2007.
Prior to moving to Tassie I lived in Queensland. I grew up in Townsville, North Queensland and moved to Brisbane to undergo Uni training after completing high school. Initially, I was working towards a Bachelor of Science. I had actually wanted to do medicine when I finished high school. In fact I was desparate to do medicine. Since about grade 8 that was always the plan and I was absolutely gutted that I didn’t quite get the grades. However, Science it was and after a rather circuitous route I managed to finish that degree and get first class honours. The route was circuitous as on entering the world of the University campus I quickly discovered that there was a life outside of study which involved rather a lot of social activity and not much attendance of lectures or other potentially useful academic pursuits. As a result my grades at times suffered. In some ways it was probably fortuitous that I didn’t get into medicine straight from high school otherwise I may still be trying to finish that degree.
After honours in science I delved into the land of pure research and commenced a PhD in Neuroscience. More specifically I was investigating the corticospinal tract and motor cortex of Flying-Foxes. Yes – imagine if you will – me, leaping off a tinnie into mangroves on the banks of the North Pine River, just north of Brisbane and chasing down flying foxes wearing a pair of massive leather gloves. Why the gloves? – they could bite and scratch like rabid poodles. Why that particular line of research? – I started asking myself that same question about a year and a half into my PhD.. Funding for research was drying up. Some of the people that I was working with were, frankly, a little weird. And – I just couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. So, I applied to do medicine – again. Three rounds of offers came and went at the end of 1988 and I had resigned myself to the fact that I had no idea what I was going to be doing in 1989 when, out of the blue, on a Monday, an envelope arrived which contained an offer to study medicine. Lectures were to start the following Monday. This would be enough to stun most people. However, for me, it was an even bigger shock, The night before the offer arrived I had found out that my older brother, along with his grilfriend, had been killed in a car accident. The following day I was with my grandparents consoling them (and them me) and came home to find the envelope on the dining table. The next day I flew 1400 kilometres back to Townsville to be with my family for the funeral on the Friday. The weeks to come were confusing and disorganised and crazy but they gave me direction and purpose and kept me plodding forward. I actually attended lectures this time around.
I loved being a medical student. Yes, that’s so cliché, I know. I even loved studying (most of the time anyway). I worked my butt off because after my less than impressive effort at Science I did NOT want to fail again. I remembered how bad that felt. During the course of my medical degree I acquired a Rural Health Scholarship which meant that the Queensland Government paid me to be a med student. I just had to then give them 3 years of service when I graduated – which I did (with Honours) – in 1994. Along the way I learned to love rural medicine and had several attachments at rural hospitals. I had a couple of stints at Miles Hospital and spent 10 weeks on one attachment at Charleville Hospital. It took me 8 and a half hours to drive to Charleville! I also had a rural attachment (of sorts) when I did my medical elective in Soddo, Ethiopia where I worked with an Australian surgeon, Dr Barry Hicks. He was an inspiration in carrying out his tireless work for the Ethiopian people which he still does to this day, well into his 70’s.
When I graduated I was allocated to Mackay Base Hospital in central Queensland. I loved my time as an intern and resident at Mackay – particularly my time in the emergency department. I think the Director of Medical Services thought I was a little nutty as I asked for special permission to start early in the emergency department. Most graduates didn’t start until February after graduating but I wanted to start before Christmas.
After my 2 years at Mackay I was thrust into the reality of being the only doctor in an isolated town in Central West Queensland and having to deal with anything that walked in the door – heart attack, heart failure, appendicitis, broken bones (of all shapes and sizes), melanomas, brain tumours, pneumonia, Parkinsons disease, fatal motor vehicle accidents, people who had accidentally set themselves on fire (that’s an interesting story), people who had purposely shot themselves in the chest (another interesting story), lacerations needing stitching, skin cancers – a truck load of skin cancers, and lets not forget the dog with the broken leg and the paralysed kangaroo. The pièce de résistance was the outpatient consultation with an elderly woman in one of the outlying clinics where a 4 foot long brown snake decided to join us in the consulting room.
It was an educational time. It was an entertaining time. I had to stay for one year but ended up staying for two. By the end of the second year I was worn out and needed a break. I went back to Mackay as I felt that I needed some more O&G experience before heading back out to a large rural centre where I could share more of the on-call pain. At one point in the previous two years I went for 14 weeks being on-call 24/7.
I was very lucky in Mackay to have two great bosses. One of them in particular (Dr Chris Horsfall) took me under his wing and taught as much as he could in the 12 months that I worked under him. When I first had anything to do with labour ward as a resident I would scurry past as quickly as I could for fear that one of the midwives might actually call me in to do something. Labour ward was a scary place where women screamed and made noises reminiscent of The Exorcsit. Midwives were scary creatures who bossed you around. It was terrifying.
By the end of the 12 months it was still a pretty terrifying place but at least I could do things. I worked with the midwives as a team so they weren’t quite as scary – they actually taught me a lot of the skills that I still use to this day. And I was pretty good at what I had to do on labour ward. Dr Horsfall started about half way through the year suggesting maybe I should do Obs and Gynae as a specialty. I initially scoffed at this suggestion. The terrified and feeling helpless aspects of labour ward still loomed large. However, by the end of the year I was starting to take him seriously. I started thinking that maybe I wasn’t half bad at this baby delivering caper and maybe he was right.
So after a lot, and I mean – a lot, of thought I applied for the training program in Queensland and Tasmania. The interview for the Queensland program was very formal. I sat at the end of (as I recall) a very long table which was surrounded by about 10 very smartly dressed and sagely looking specialists who peppered questions at me whilst I discretely soiled my underwear. I left that interview and got a taxi straight to the airport to catch a plane to Hobart for my interview there the following day. In Melbourne airport on my way to Hobart I took a call (in the toilet) from the Queensland committee offering me a position in their training program. The next day in Hobart my interview was very informal with 4 or 5 specialists, much more casually dressed who, in reality, I just had a bit of a chat with. I was offered a position before I left the hospital. I eventually decided on Tassie as I thought that a change was as good as a holiday (it wasn’t – I still worked like a dog in Tasmania) and I just didn’t want to go back to the rat race of Brisbane. The only reason that I even thought of going to Tasmania in the first place was because we had a delightful, very level-headed Canadian locum O&G work in Mackay during part of the time that I was there and he raved about Tasmania and the training program that was in place there.
In 2001, I moved all the way from Mackay to Hobart, taking my Toyota Corona along for the ride. I spent the next 5 years in Tasmania. These years were punctuated by numerous overseas trips to Africa. I went mainly with overland tours where 20 or so people from various national and social backgrounds travelled vast distances on the back of a modified truck and set up camp each night with tents and shared cooking and other duties around the campsite. I went to Mount Kilimanjaro twice. The first time I had to turn back about half way up because of pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) but the second time I was successful. Then in 2003 while in Launceston working as a registrar I met my wife. One thing led to another and by the end of 2005 we were married and I had acquired two stepsons. I felt I needed more experience than Tasmania could offer and so in 2006 we all moved to Melbourne where I completed my training at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne working as a Senior Registrar mainly on their busy labour ward.
It was also in 2006 that our daughter was born. There’s nothing like being present at the birth of your own child to give you a whole new perspective on childbirth. During labour I was worried that I might turn into the psychotic obstetric registrar from hell but instead was a little amazed that I easily slipped into the role of concerned father and immensely proud and awestruck husband. It wasn’t until our daughter was born that I looked back on the labour itself and thought to myself “Gee, they didn’t check the foetal heart very often!”
In 2007 I completed further training as a Urogynaecology Fellow in a joint position with the Monash Medical Centre and the Mercy Hospital for Women. Then in 2008 we all moved back to Hobart and I commenced private practice. We very seriously considered staying in Melbourne - there were multiple opportunities that presented themselves at the end of my time there. But, I wanted to live in a place where I could spend more time with my family and less time in my car. I wanted to live in a place where the hospital was only 10 minutes away. Now that we’ve been back for almost 7 years I can say that whilst it was really hard at the beginning moving back to Hobart, it’s been absolutely worth it.