Dr James Wong graduated from University of Western Australia in 2013. He completed his GP training in Broome, where he developed an interest in Aboriginal health.
Dr Wong was born in Malaysia and moved to Perth when he was 10 years old. It wasn’t until he did a rural rotation during his internship that he got a feel for rural medicine. Seeing GPs work together and take a generalist approach to what was needed in their community ignited his interest in general practice.
James completed his GP training in Broome at the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS) and chose to do his FARGP with additional rural skills training in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. He was involved in providing healthcare to communities in the Kimberley region.
The experience at the KAMS was formative to his motivations to work in Aboriginal health.
‘There was a strong group of doctors that championed GP education and gaining additional skills. They were very experienced, and the work they were doing was meaningful and exciting.’
Through his career, James has really appreciated the opportunity to engage with the community and learn about Aboriginal cultures. It has enabled him to gain perspective on his own culture, which is something he considers to be the best part of working in Aboriginal health. Undertaking this learning has meant James has been able to break down several misconceptions about working with Aboriginal people.
‘ I’ve learnt to really listen to my patients so I can understand what they need. I think this is a skill we need even more in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.’
‘Sometimes we think of Aboriginal people as one cohort, which is actually not the case. Every time we visit a new community and get to know the people, we listen to their different stories, backgrounds, relationships and the way the community is structured; it’s quite interesting.’
Another misconception James is keen to break down is that you are not supported. In his experience, everyone is trying to help each other out. He has found that his social group is made up of colleagues, which helps to strengthen relationships. He has also benefited from the support of organisations, such as the RACGP.
‘The fun part about rural GP is that you don’t do it all alone. You’ve got a team of nurse practitioners, nurses and especially the health workers, who are very in tune with what the community needs. They all help you out with all of this. You’re working more in a team than in isolation.’
For now, James is making his way around Australia with his partner, who is also a GP, working as a locum. Their plan is to explore Australia and experience work in Indigenous services. While currently in Bamaga, in Far North Queensland, the pair will next head to the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
‘We’re hoping to try South Australia as well and the Northern Territory. We’re looking for somewhere to settle down and work in Aboriginal health.’