Dr Sylvia Lim - GP Synergy

Dr Sylvia Lim

Murrumbidgee & ACT

  • Applied for the 2023 AGPT program?

Dr Lim’s research topic – How rural general practitioners can be advocates for change – is being presented at RMA21 and the 8th Rural and Remote Heath Scientific Symposium. A manuscript of the research findings is currently being prepared for submission to the Medical Journal of Australia.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I grew up on a property in tropical Malaysia. I completed my final years of schooling in Tamworth NSW, then obtained my first tertiary qualification as a physiotherapist in Albury (on the NSW and Victorian border).  I then worked across the Hunter New England Health Service as a physiotherapist, before moving to rural China to establish and provide post-earthquake rehabilitation services.  On returning to Australia I obtained my Masters in International Law while working at the Australian Department of Home Affairs as a policy adviser. I have also been involved in community-based health and sanitation projects in rural Nepal, Malawi, Zimbabwe and the Philippines.

I was drawn to Wagga Wagga by the opportunity to complete the final two years of my medical degree in a regional setting at the University of Notre Dame’s rural clinical school. Six years on I now work at the university’s Wagga Wagga Clinical School, as well as the base hospital. I am also a proud Wagga Wagga home owner, actively involved in the local community through rugby and watersports, while completing my Masters in Traumatology.

Why did you decide to become a GP?

I had started orthopaedic training, however I realised that the requisite training workload would take me away from the community and lifestyle in Wagga Wagga that had become so important to me. I then discovered the ACRRM academic practice training pathway, whose rural focus and flexibility was a perfect fit.  It has enabled me build on my previous experiences to create a meaningful and rewarding future.

What attracted you to undertake an academic component to your training?

I was attracted to academic practice as it offered the scope for me to explore areas of rural medicine of personal interest and importance to me.  It afforded me the opportunity to contribute to the evidence base of these areas, and a platform to expand and build on my previous research.

What is your research project about?

My current research project looks at how rural general practitioners can be advocates for change.

Our research delves into the contribution rural doctors make outside of the clinic environment to build healthy and sustainable communities. It was a real privilege to be able to interview a range of doctors in our community, a number who had been my clinical supervisors in the past, to explore their thoughts and experiences.”

What was your motivation for the project?

The role of a doctor as an advocate has long been a motivator for me. One of my drivers for embarking on a career in medicine was that I hoped to appropriate the regard that society affords its doctors to advance consideration for those in need.  We are facing a resource poor future where the deleterious impact of avoidable consumption and resultant waste on ecosystems and biodiversity could become insurmountable. Rural Australians are particularly vulnerable to the threat to food and water security posed by this challenge.  There is limited literature that examines rural GP perceptions of the role of the GP in health advocacy, or their perceived responsibility to contribute to waste reduction in their own clinical practice.  It is hoped that insights from this project will expand our knowledge on this topic, from which a framework for rural GPs to build on existing waste reduction strategies and tailor them to their own practice can be developed.

Is your research project part of a larger research project or a stand-alone research?

My research project is stand-alone research.

What do you see as the benefits, both to yourself and generally, of undertaking an academic component in your GP training?

Personally, I hope to deepen my understanding of issues pertinent to rural health and well being, while expanding my research and advocacy skill-sets.  More broadly I hope to contribute to a solid evidence base from which sound, rural focused health policy and practice can be built.


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