Dr Vanessa Hewitt is a rural generalist working in Grafton where she splits her time between GP training, working in the emergency department of Grafton Hospital, teaching and mentoring medical students, and enjoying a few laughs over regular pub trivia.
Tell us a little bit about your background
I grew up in Sydney and went to the University of Wollongong. Firstly I studied a year of economics but soon realised I didn’t want to be an economist. I then completed a Bachelor of Medical Science and worked in public health research and started a master of public health awaiting entry into medicine. I have always been interested in the big picture and equity in healthcare.
Why did you decide to become a GP, and a rural generalist in particular?
As a UOW medical student I spent a year in Mudgee working alongside rural generalists. I could see the life and it appealed to me – the variety of work and the opportunity to become part of the community. I really loved emergency medicine as a junior medical officer and enjoyed training as an emergency department registrar for 3 years but missed the continuity of care that comes with general practice. I knew when I started the rural generalist program I had found the perfect mix for me.
Why are you intending completing advanced skills training (AST) in paediatrics?
I am planning on completing advanced skills training in paediatrics next year in Grafton. I’ve spent a long time in ED but want to diversify my skills further and paediatrics is fun. For me, there’s nothing more rewarding than getting a smile out of a sick kid.
What do you like most about community-based training (and your combined ED work)?
I never get bored. Its a challenging and rewarding mix with different team-based approaches and I get to work with, and learn from lots of people with different skill sets. I also get a lot of joy and meaning from teaching and mentoring UOW medical students that come to Grafton for a year. It’s a way I get to give back.
What do you enjoy about living and working in Grafton?
Grafton has a great country town vibe, and is very scenic with lots of outdoor activities and the beach is just over half an hour away. I’ve made some beautiful friends from both medical and non-medical walks of life. My GP and ED supervisors and the coordinator at the Clarence Valley Regional Training hub have been paramount in making me feel well supported and have ensured I have prioritised my work life balance.
I have found a brilliant practice to complete my GP training component at the Ochre GP Superclinic. The practice manager and staff have all been very warm and welcoming. My supervisor Dr Cooper has worked in Grafton for many years and has diverse experience including working in the NT. He understands my training needs and is assisting me in identifying any knowledge and skills gaps before my final exams.
I also work in the Grafton Hospital Emergency Department. This counts towards my ACRRM community training time. The hospital also gave me the additional opportunity of working towards the ACEM diploma in emergency medicine. Training opportunities at the hospital have really kicked off with a cohort of rural generalist trainees, GPs doing extended skills and emergency trainees working across ICU, ED and paediatrics. We can study, discuss cases and share some laughs over regular pub trivia.
What are your career plans after fellowing (if you know )?
I love Grafton. I’ve become attached. There is a shortage of GPs and other specialists so rural generalists skills are useful here. I can continue to work in GP and emergency and teach medical students too. There is a long wait list to see a paediatrician so with the additional paediatric training I feel I could really help the community.
Learn more about training as a rural generalist here.