Treating the vulnerable
Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo has a long history of providing accessible healthcare to some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised populations in Canberra.
She has worked closely with the gay, lesbian and transgender communities, patients with drug dependencies, refugees and recent migrants, patients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and patients living with HIV/AIDS.
Soo was born in Malaysia and completed her medical education at the UK’s Cambridge University and Kings College Hospital in London before embarking on her journey to becoming a GP.
‘I joined the general practice training program when I moved to Australia in 1989,’ she said. ‘I enjoy general practice because we deal one-on-one with our patients, learn to get to know them and interact with them to get them the best health outcome.
‘Not a lot of other jobs will allow you to do that and that is what makes this profession different.’
Today, Soo runs two general practices in Canberra - Hobart Place General Practice and East Canberra General Practice. Soo has been training general practice registrars for the past 15 years and was one of the pioneers of Canberra’s Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP). Both the Hobart Place General Practice and East Canberra General Practice continue to train general practice registrars and medical students.
The treatment and management of HIV-positive patients in Canberra has been one of Soo’s major healthcare interest since she began her general practice career.
‘I have been an S100 prescriber since 1996 and that means that I have ongoing training to be able to prescribe and manage people with HIV,’ she said. ‘In terms of the management of [HIV], it is like any other patient with a chronic illness. We need to keep up to date with new guidelines and information because one condition can affect another quite severely.’
Soo also has a strong commitment to the care of the LGBTIQ population. “There has been an enormous increase in demand for healthcare by the transgender population and we need more GPs who want to work with this community”, she said.
Soo has established her general practices with an emphasis on providing non-judgmental healthcare.
‘The Interchange General Practice has always had a big focus on dealing with the disadvantaged, right from the days of Dr Peter Rowland, who started the practice,’ she said. ‘I knew that he had a focus on the gay and lesbian population and on HIV medicine but, when I joined, I found that he had really extended that philosophy to include all the other marginalised communities in the ACT as well.’
That philosophy of non-judgmental healthcare continues to be a cornerstone of both practices.
Soo’s career working for the disadvantaged populations in Canberra was recognised when she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia as part of the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours for her service as a medical practitioner to the community of the Australian Capital Territory. She returned that award in 2021 as a protest against the upgrade of Mrs Margaret Court to a Companion of the Order of Australia.