Dr Sophie Hamilton is a passionate general practitioner dedicated to making a difference in rural and remote health. She recently completed her second semester of community general practice training in Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia.
Sophie chose the general practice specialty because of the variety it offers. She works across both the local practice and the hospital in ED and inpatient medicine.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am just finishing my second semester of community general practice training in Tumby Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. I work across both the local practice and the hospital in ED and inpatient medicine. Next semester I will continue my training in Loxton in the Riverland region, which is where I grew up. I am excited to be returning home after a long time living away and am honoured to serve the community that served me so well through my school years and gave me many treasured opportunities. I hope to take on an extra year of advanced rural skills training in Anaesthetics or inpatient medicine. This year, I will also be acting as one of the Registrar Liaison Officers with my training organisation, GPEx.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I spent the first few years of my life growing up on a small island north of PNG, where my dad was working as the local doctor. Stories of our adventures there as a family, as well as those of the trials and rewards of working in a third world country, piqued my interest in medicine from a young age. Throughout my school years later in Loxton, I felt very connected to the community and the strong sense of togetherness in the region, and I think I took for granted that this existed everywhere outside of the town.
I never really believed that I could be a doctor (for one thing, I'm a hopeless fainter, which I'm told runs in the family!), so I spent quite a few years experimenting with different undergraduate courses and even tried my hand at the performing arts. At the time, I remember wondering when I would ever decide what I wanted to do, and whether I was just wasting time without an end goal. But now, I feel these experiences enriched my life and skillset and set me up for my career as a doctor. It also allowed me to explore what was really important to me as I moved away from my hometown and discover which issues really lit a fire in my belly.
I eventually moved to Canberra to do my postgraduate medicine under the medical rural bonded scholarship program at the ANU. I discovered pretty quickly that rural was where I wanted to be. Nothing made me feel like 'home' like the country did. I took every opportunity to secure rural placements as a student and junior doc in both NSW and SA, and I really started to appreciate the degree of maldistribution of the medical workforce in country Australia (hello belly fire!). This is really the point where I knew that I wanted to contribute to high-quality healthcare in the bush and advocate for the same.
Why general practice?
I chose General Practice because of the variety. I liked a bit of everything and didn't want to say goodbye to any particular specialty (yes, even you, surgery). I love the consult-to-consult variety of presentations encountered in a day in general practice, but I especially love the extra bits about rural GP. Spending a morning with inpatients and perhaps doing planned outpatient skin lesion excisions, followed by a generous lunch break and an afternoon of consulting, gives me energy and keeps me on my toes. In Loxton, I look forward to some theatre experience as well.
The other thing I love about general practice is the amount of good we can do when we understand the context in which our patients live. We have the gift of continuity of care which allows us to learn about (and from) our patients, and I think this gives us the power to plan those patient-centred interventions, targeted to the individual and likely to be successful. The beauty of rural general practice is in forming relationships with patients as well as their family and friends. You are often living and working in the same community as the patient, and I think the insights that can be gained from this are invaluable to your understanding of the patient's context and how you can help them most (or empower them to help themselves).
I value the art of medicine, the structure of the consult, and the good that can be done when we choose the right moment to say nothing at all.
It's exceptionally challenging, but so rewarding, and I really am very proud and excited to continue my career in the country.