Treating the vulnerable
Dr Tuck Meng Soo has a long history of providing accessible healthcare to some of the most disadvantaged and marginalised populations in Canberra.
He 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 his medical education at the UK’s Cambridge University and Kings College Hospital in London before embarking on his journey to becoming a GP.
‘I joined the general practice training program when I moved to Australia in 1989,’ he 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, Interchange General Practice and Airport General Practice, and will soon be taking over another suburban general practice, the Watson Medical Centre. He is also heavily involved with medical education and advocacy. 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).
The treatment and management of HIV-positive patients in Canberra has been one of Soo’s major healthcare interest since he began his 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,’ he 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 has established his general practices with an emphasis on looking after the healthcare needs of Canberra’s most vulnerable populations.
‘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,’ he 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.’
Due to the health complexities of his patients, Soo does not believe in imposing a time limit on their time in general practice consultations. This means the doctors at both of his practices see fewer patients per day than the Australian average.
‘We have a much slower consultation rate because our patients need that sort of time,’ Soo said. ‘. We tell our patients that we will deal with as much as we can with what the patients come in with.’
One of the initiatives Soo has been involved in is the Early Morning Centre, which is funded by the ACT and Federal governments to provide health care for individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
‘We have a service where we run a general practice clinic once a week in the morning,’ Soo said. ‘I am doing it in collaboration with another centre and I go out to do a morning clinic once every three weeks,’ he said.
‘I have always had the philosophy that with all the marginalised groups … we are happy to see them and we don’t have a problem seeing them. We have continued that philosophy and I think it means that, for the doctors who work [at the practices], the work can be very satisfying, seeing all these people who otherwise won’t be managed well or who don’t have access to care.’
Soo’s career working for the disadvantaged populations in Canberra was recognised and he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia as part of the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for his service as a medical practitioner to the community of the Australian Capital Territory.