Dr Emma Mason is currently completing her extended skills in sexual health at a Sydney clinic, for her outstanding achievement as a GP registrar she was awarded the 2019 GP Synergy Registrar of the Year for Nepean, Western & Northern Sydney.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born in Hay NSW and moved to a small town called Stuarts Point, which is on the coast between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie and spent most of my life there. It’s a town of about 700 people. My parents live on a little mango farm there.
During high school I thought that I’d like to do something that would be different day-to-day and meant I could be involved with people. I decided to try for medicine and was lucky to get a spot at UNSW as an undergraduate.
Why did you decide to become a GP?
During medical school, I did two great placements with GP practices. I did a placement in Woolgoolga where their practice is so varied – nursing home visits, school visits for case conferences for kids with ADHD, Aboriginal health clinics, refugee health clinics and medical school teaching. My second placement in Bellingen, the doctors looked after palliative care patients the hospital, did a small surgical list at the hospital, and did some outreach clinics in the community as well.
I just really like the variety of things that a GP can do, and how GPs contribute to the community that they live in.
What do you enjoy most about general practice?
I think the nicest thing is forming relationships with patients over time. And going on the journey, with each of your patients through a health concern that they have, or difficult time, and feeling like they want to come to you for help. Building that relationship over time is really nice.
You’re completing extended skills in sexual health, is that a special area of interest for you?
I’ve been interested in sexual health since medical school when I did a placement and research project in sexual health.
I’m working in a sexual health centre as a registrar, so I’m supervised and supported. It’s a public clinic attached to a community health centre. The work is varied and a typical day might include chronic care for HIV patients, prescribing PrEP for HIV prevention, routine STI screening for sex workers, reviewing patients with genital symptoms, and also reporting data to public health. The clinic aims to focus on sexual health check ups and management of sexually transmitted infections for our priority populations such as young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and anyone with symptoms.
It’s interesting and a really good place to work and learn different skills – consultation skills in a sexual health consultation are a little bit different, there’s also a lot of examination techniques, lab testing techniques, and new conditions to learn about every day. You also feel that you are making a positive difference for people who may experience a lot of stigma and fear around sexual health.
Has it been important to you having a GP supervisor during your training?
Starting out in GP, is different to any other work that you’ve done before. For me, it was so different going from hospital to GP. Having a supervisor on site that you can ask questions, not only about clinical cases, but about career options and other kinds of things, is very helpful. Having that one person that’s dedicated to training you and helping you take responsibility for your learning as well, it’s great to have that support on site.
How do you feel that your GP training has helped you in becoming a more confident GP?
Moving practices during training is good, I’ve moved every six months, and got to see different demographics and different presentations. Even if you’re only moving a small distance, it can mean a lot. The population can be very different from place to place. I think getting the variety, experience and confidence has been good.
It’s good having the flexibility to choose your own interest or pathway.
Where do you hope general practice will take you into the future?
There are so many areas you can go with general practice. For me, I would be interested in following women’s health and sexual health into the future. Whether that means practicing as a GP with a special interest or whether it means doing further training in sexual health, to get that dual qualification that might be an option for me.