Jean-Baptiste Philibert is a third-year medical student at Western Sydney University. He decided to study medicine a bit later in life after working in public service, because he wanted to make a difference. Medicine was always in the back of his mind, so he went for it and now he has his sights set on becoming a rural generalist.
Tell us about your GP placements to date
My first placement was in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory at the Anyinginyi AMS, where I spent at least half of my time with the GPs. I also worked with the nurses and did some outreach work in public health initiatives, which really changed my perspective. The resources in the Northern Territory are very much needed, and people really rely on the AMS – there’s really no other option. I also did three weeks at Yuendumu.
What did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoyed working with the rural generalists because of their diverse knowledge and varied backgrounds. One of them made his patients more comfortable by speaking some of their language and learning about the culture of the local area so he could connect with them. There are 12 different cultures and languages in Tennant Creek, so that was a bit of a challenge!
What was your most memorable experience?
One of the clinic staff got me to try a honey ant. These little ants carry a nectar bag on the end, and I thought that was really cool because it is not something you would normally do. It was delicious and I felt privileged to get to try that. The ant is alive and you suck the nectar out of it.
What do you think are the benefits of working in Aboriginal health?
You're in an incredible, natural environment, different to anywhere else in the world. I love the red earth and the bush. The people are incredibly diverse and interesting, different to those you would meet anywhere else in the world. It’s the oldest living culture on the planet, and there’s still a lot of things that are not well known. So going out there and discovering the things they’ve been doing for thousands of years for myself is just fascinating. In terms of living, there’s no commute and it’s almost always warm.
What did you do in your spare time?
We went to Devils Marbles, we found a roadhouse a few hours away that had really good food and a swimming pool, so we’d drive out there for the weekend. We did a lot of exploring. We also took part in the community experiences. It was Christmas time, so we volunteered to be involved in the local gift giving with Santa and participated in carols by candlelight, which was sung in local languages.
What were the diversity of services provided
There aren’t many doctors around, so the remote area nurses step up in great ways. Allied health professionals are there on a visiting basis and need to have a wide range of skills to be prepared for every condition. The healthcare team members are generalists and do a lot more than their assigned role. There’s no room for sub-specialities, which is very interesting and exciting as a medical student. Most of the presentations have many different aspects. You’re never going to get somebody coming in for sniffles or flu. Multiple follow ups are required.
What advice would you give to students considering a career in rural medicine?
My rural and remote placements have been the best experiences of medical school so far. Even if you’re not sure if you want to go rural, it's an incredible chance to take part and see what it's like. Once you’re there, you’re going to want to do it again because of the opportunities rural medicine provides, and the people.
What made you decide to become a rural generalist?
When it comes to medicine, I’m interested in a bit of everything. As a procedural GP, you can be qualified in anaesthetics and obstetrics, plus do GP consults on the side. The job offers so many different aspects, and I don’t see that offered in any other speciality or sub-specialty.