Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Rural study leads two graduates to practice in Traralgon

The two newest faces at Traralgon’s Breed Street Clinic are proof that studying medicine rurally motivates students to opt for rural futures. Doctors Lisa Gilbert and Danielle Winkelman-Stothard have commenced a six-month GP training placement at the Traralgon clinic, with both expressing the intention to stay local once their training is complete.

Support network critical to young doctor

Dr Danielle Winkelman-Stothard: rural support has been invaluable.
Danielle is no stranger to the Latrobe Valley. Raised and schooled in Morwell, she attended secondary school at Kurnai College before completing a science degree at Melbourne University. When Monash University introduced its graduate entry medical program in Churchill back in 2008, the self-confessed “country bumpkin” jumped at the chance to leave Melbourne behind and return home, to the fold of her family, and embark on studying medicine.

“After four years living in Melbourne, I knew I wanted to come home,” the accomplished mother of twin toddlers said. Danielle undertook most of her ‘rotations’ in rural settings while completing medical studies, embracing the “hands on” and supportive nature of her placements in hospitals and clinics all over Gippsland. "I think things would have been immensely harder for me had I not been studying rurally,” she said. “Everyone locally has gotten to know me, they know my twins and they have gone above and beyond to support me.”

An initial GP training placement at Heyfield medical centre convinced Danielle that general practice could “offer me the best of everything”. “I was interested in respiratory, cardiology, paediatrics and the holistic nature of medicine, getting to know patients,” she said.

Danielle’s enthusiasm for learning has seen her complete numerous additional diplomas covering areas including obstetrics and gynaecology and child health – and she has no intentions of stopping there, citing dermatology and sexual health as other areas of interest.

Danielle has firm plans to stay in the Latrobe Valley. She said the personal and professional support offered to her through a local doctor’s Mums network had been invaluable in helping her to cope with the competing demands of motherhood and general practice.

An aspirational message

Dr Lisa Gilbert: it's important to live near where I work.
A series of fateful events lead to Melbourne-born and Albury-raised Lisa Gilbert arriving in Gippsland to study medicine back in 2001. Lisa is passionate about spreading a message of aspiration among students who fear their previous schooling experience or own lack of opportunity prevents them from exploring medical studies.

“My high school was a ‘poor performer’ and my ENTER score would not have allowed me direct entry to medicine but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have the aptitude or intelligence required,” she said.

Initially, Lisa completed a biomedical degree at RMIT. “I never thought I could be a doctor but I really liked science and the idea of research,” she said. Despite having no previous awareness of the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT), Lisa decided to join her RMIT peers in studying for, and sitting, the test - with no expectation of a positive outcome.

Post-graduation, while working as a medical scientist, her career direction shifted gears upon news of a good GAMSAT result – but not before she headed overseas with her British partner for 12 months to work a series of unskilled jobs while they waited for his permanent visa to come through. Returning to Australia, Lisa attended an open day at Monash Rural Health Churchill and was immediately won over. “The campus is beautiful, everyone was so welcoming – they really care about who you are, your story and how they can support you,” she said.

Given the rigours of life as a medical student, and young doctor, “it became very important to me to live near where I work,” said Lisa. “I like the simple life, I hate traffic and commuting – it makes everything so much harder.”

A series of supportive local placements during her studies, particularly at the Heyfield hospital, coupled with the opportunity to specialise in GP in Gippsland convinced Lisa and her partner to establish their lives in the region. “We have put down our roots here and we are happy to stay,” she said. “GP is a great fit for me, I love the variety, independence, responsibility and the feeling that we are building relationships and making a difference.”

As she continues her training next year, Lisa hopes to spend more time working locally and will undertake a stint in Latrobe Regional Hospital’s emergency department.

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