Dr Shamaela Ullah is training on the composite pathway as an opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and experience rural medicine. Beginning her GP training with the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Broken Hill has been a wonderful introduction to rural GP training.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Penrith in Western Sydney and graduated from the University of New South Wales. My first two years after university were spent as a junior doctor at Nepean Hospital, where I worked most often in the Emergency Department, but also have some experience in O&G and women’s health, paediatrics and respiratory. I’m very interested in women’s health, and was involved with a number of initiatives both during and after medical school. In particular, I did some work with the Royal Hospital for Women Foundation in Randwick to create women’s health fact sheets to educate women on their health. I’ve also been involved in a study investigating ectopic pregnancy which I presented in Adelaide. I’ve enjoyed expanding my knowledge on women’s health, and had a great time at Nepean Hospital, especially assisting with and learning new procedures during my O&G term!
Why did you decide to become a GP?
I’ve always been interested in becoming a GP – I like the aspect of knowing your patients and following their health, looking at and treating their disease holistically. I often see that GPs are so involved in their communities and health promotion, which is something I see myself in after settling into my role a bit more.
GP is also so broad – rather than seeing just one type of issue for the rest of my working life, I can see and manage so many different things – vascular disease, mental health, respiratory illnesses (often all in the same person!). As well as that, I have the choice to further sub-specialise as a GP or do more proceduralist work. Overall, GP is broad, allows me to be flexible in my interests and with a lot of patient contact so that you can follow them up and actually monitor their progress over the years!
What are you looking forward to about GP community-based training?
Honestly, meeting new people and seeing the more “subacute” and “chronic” sides of the medical system. Being just out of hospital training, I feel that we are sometimes very focused on acute care, and we forget about where our patients are 90% of the time – with their GPs trying to do preventative and maintenance of their health! I’m also looking forward to the increased responsibilities of following up patients, being more independent with my decision-making, and actually getting to do fairly interesting outpatient-based procedures such as simple biopsies.
What do you think might be some of the challenges?
I think to be a good GP you have to know your community – what resources and other health facilities are available? Who is the demographic you are treating and what are their specific needs? Getting used to this will take some time! But more so, though I am also looking forward to this, I think I will be challenging to move to independent decision making. I think also doing my first placement in a community so new to me will be a welcome challenge, too!
Why did you decide to train on the composite pathway?
The composite pathway offers some unique opportunities such as working in a completely different area (for me, Western NSW) than what I would otherwise be training in. I thought this would get me out of my comfort zone and allow me to gain more experience specifically in rural medicine and working with limited resources. I’ve lived in and out with various family members in rural towns such as Orange and Albury, so I have always had a bit of exposure and interest in practising rurally – I love the sense of community. Overall, I feel like being on the composite pathway gives me better opportunity to broaden my procedural skills and scope of consultations.
What do you like about starting your training in Broken Hill?
I’m currently in Broken Hill, which is a large outback town, and the location is so beautiful and different to what I have experienced before! Like I mentioned earlier, rural towns I’ve been in have had such a lovely and friendly community, and Broken Hill is no different!
All my patients and colleagues have been lovely, and often taken an interest to get to know me and I feel like, even though I am so early in my training, most people really like having more doctors (and healthcare professionals in general!) in their community. I’m currently at the Clive Bishop Medical Centre, which is part of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, and though I won’t be involved in retrievals any time soon, outback medicine and outreach services to even more remote communities seems like such a fulfilling and interesting part of general practice – you won’t have that exposure and learning opportunities in many places in NSW!
Also, working in Broken Hill will mean that even as a GP in a wonderfully established rural community, I will still have to be mindful of what resources I have available to me and it promotes me to be even more patient-centred – there’s no point referring someone to a specialist interstate if they can’t make the travel there!
What are your long-term career plans?
I’m not sure where I will end up, but I have so far loved working in a rural area, and I want to continue working and expanding my skills in rural and remote medicine. I know I want to remain working in a rural area/rural medicine, which is again why being on the composite pathway is so great! I want to get more experience in my interests such as women’s health/health education, and possibly even pursue a GP proceduralist role.
If you would like to know more about GP training opportunities in Western NSW, head to our Western NSW webpages and guide.