Celebrating Women in Medicine-Life as an Australian Doctor

My ‘Celebrating Women’ series continues today, celebrating one of the most optimistic women I know. I have known Srimal since 1988. We met in Adelaide, Australia where we were both in our first year in university as medical students. I honestly don’t remember a time when I have seen Srimal not smiling. The last time I saw Srimal was in 2015 when I was holidaying in Adelaide with my family. I remember us saying good bye at the airport, we both had tears in our eyes but Srimal still had that beautiful smile on her face.

Srimal is a General Practitioner in Adelaide. Despite being miles away from each other, we thank Watts App for the instant communication we can have! We also have a Watts App group and there are 6 of us on it, all communcating from different parts of this world and all still feeling as close as we were as medical students in Adelaide.

1. Please tell us about yourself Srimal.

I am an Australian General Practitioner. Life is hectic as I have to balance work commitments with parenting responsibilities. My son is finishing his final year of high school. We have always enjoyed travel, catching up with friends and attending live performances.

2. Where do you currently work?

I work in two general practices and enjoy the diversity offered by my career path as well as the opportunity to foster a long term professional relationship with patients and their families.

3. How did your responsibilities change as a medic during the pandemic?

During the pandemic our clinics adapted quickly to establish safety procedures such as using telehealth where possible, redesigning consulting areas and triaging patients to ensure that patients with respiratory symptoms were assessed through outdoor car park consultations.

We have provided face to face consultations throughout the pandemic. Our clinic owners took a fantastic leadership role and generously shared protocols to protect staff and patients.They labelled car parks as outdoor consult bays, set up screening procedures at reception and created visual cues to ensure social distancing such as duct tape lines to guide patients. I feel these measures were instrumental in risk reduction.

There was also sharing of ideas with colleagues through a social media group called ‘GP Down Under’. It made a huge difference in promptly implementing risk minimisation stategies. The effectiveness of these measures was also very evident in the dramatic reduction of influenza cases (flu). In February we anticipated a horror flu season. Thankfully, our public health measures resulted in dramatic results. Between January and June 2019, more than 132 000 were diagnosed with influeanza (flu). During this same period in 2020, 21 000 people were diagnosed.

4. How do you think Australia has dealt with the pandemic and how do the Australians feel about how the pandemic was managed?

Australia was fortunate to have low case numbers due to its geographical separation and open spaces and well spaced housing. Despite some initial errors with widespread testing, contact tracing helped Australia to recover and control clusters quite rapidly. Our disease burden has been largely restricted to hotel quarantine related outbreaks with Victoria being the only state to suffer long periods of lockdown

5. How has life changed for you and your family since the pandemic?

We have always enjoyed overseas travel which has not been an option. We have socialised in smaller groups since the pandemic and spent more time at home or with immediate family, which has had the positive effect of creating opportunities for family connection.

Although travelling overseas has stopped we have had the opportunity to find adventures within Australia. Since flying has been less safe, we took the opportunity to drive to Ulurru and Kings Canyon with friends, travelling over 3000 km in 8 days, spotting wild camels ,cattle and brumbies(wild horses) on the highway.

( Ulurru is Ayers Rock, and Kings Canyon is a National Park halfway between Alice Springs and Ulurru)

We also had the opportunity to see great white sharks aboard MV Rodney Fox on a 4 night trip. We were mesmerised by close ecounters with white sharks and enjoyed  swims with playful sealions and giant cuttlefish. It has been a great opportunity to appreciate local tourism.

6. What are you looking forward to most in 2021?

I have been most looking forward to high rates of vaccination to transition towards eased restrictions.

7. Is there an interesting book you have read recently?

Following from Adelaide Writer’s Week I am inspired to read ‘Song of the Crocodile’ by Nardi Simpson, an indigenous author, poet and musician. Nardi provides unique insights into indigenous connection with the land, adopting a lyrical writing style. She was the most inspiring speaker at writer’s week, challenging the concept of unstable ground in her panel discussion.

8. What is your advice for young people, especially young women wanting to persue a career in medicine?

I have been fortunate to mentor students from our school robotics team and had the opportunity to mentor some students who have chosen to study medicine. Medicine offers a flexible career path with opportunities to reduce hours as needed to manage family commitments and attend school events. I still find medicine fascinating and full of surprises so it offers an interesting career path which remains challenging even after 25 years.There are many specialties to suit a variety of personalities and interests. Women are well represented in the profession, which helps with camaraderie

9. Would you like to share any special university memories?

Studying medicine has provided lifelong friendships and so many shared memories which keep our wonderful friends in our hearts, even with many years of being apart. Endless pranks with kidnapped back packs, cocktail parties with some questionable mixology involving tabasco, curry nights, canoeing trips with stars reflected in the water at night are just a few of the amazing memories which have cemented our lifelong friendships from our university adventures together. It has been amazing to watch our children bond so easily with each other, like family.

Let’s keep appreciating all who work in the health service. Those who have looked after the unwell to those who have kept our hospitals clean and safe during this pandemic. The health service, whether it be in Australia or the UK, is definitely an establishment that I am grateful for.
Thank you for this virtual interview all the way from ‘Down Under’!

A Family Gained Through Friendship Is A Family Never Lost.

Published by JH_blogger

British doctor, wife and Mum to 2 daughters, Kirsty and Melissa. I published my first book in 2020 'Our Family's Journey Through Disability and Cancer . Buy now https://www.amazon.co.uk/Familys-Journey-Through-Disability-Cancer

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