“My mother used to say, ‘you need to be careful if you get blessed with too many talents, Susie, because with talent comes responsibility.’
As a kid I grew up playing the piano and singing and then Mum and Dad bought me a guitar when I was 11. I just started writing songs and I can still remember them. I always wrote, had songbooks out, listened to other people’s songs; I would play the choruses that people sing along to for the local church group. I’ve always been a musician.
When I finished school at 17, I chose nursing—I entered a hospital-based training and saw it as a way to earn money so I could put myself through Uni to be a physio. I then quickly decided I loved nursing and didn’t want to do physio at all.
After my training, I fell into cardiac nursing and that’s really where I realised, I wanted to get into medicine because I loved how the heart worked and wanted to know more.
Right at that point in the mid-90’s, I was going back to Uni to get into medicine and my band FRUIT—at the same time—got the opportunity to go overseas to America. I recall asking my cardiologist friend if I should travel with a band or pursue medicine; he thought there was no question so I took the plunge to travel with the band for the next 10 years.
I think the happiest times of my life have been when I’ve taken a risk and gone adventuring.
I have done this at various times of my life.
Perhaps the most significant was choosing to be a touring musician. This is also where I met my now wife, Sue. She came on board as the band manager right when we needed help to tour overseas. We spent ten years travelling, playing music and making people feel good. It was hard, wonderful work and involved working with some brilliant people. I’ll take that experience to my grave with absolutely no regrets. I don’t count out a resurgence of that career.
In the mid 2000’s the band came to a natural close with band members thinking of doing other things. At this time, I weighed up medicine again and took another big risk and adventured into the next ten years of learning and re-careering. I worked as a nurse still through this time.
I always thought that I would bring all that I learned as a nurse, and put that together with all of the knowledge of medicine and be a hybrid. From the perspective of being a nurse, you are used to listening to people, advocating for people and explaining to people; so I always aspire to be a doctor who will spend time, listen and explain.
Sue supported me while I studied and she learnt a lot of medicine too. I loved the learning and meeting such a great crew of medical student friends who are now my colleagues.
The next significant risk was in 2013, in my third year of medicine. Sue and I made a last-minute choice to come to Kangaroo Island for a year so I could learn what being a rural doctor was like. That changed my direction from cardiologist to rural GP. I completed my medical degree and, in another surprise twist, discovered a love of obstetrics and then I returned to KI in 2018 to work as a GP obstetrician here. We have loved being part of this community for two-and-a-half years. Sue’s wonderful skills in business development have also grown and flourished in this time.
My adventure for the next six months is to continue doing some work with the Royal Flying Doctors Service based in Port Augusta. This is something I have always been interested in as I was almost born on a Royal Flying Doctor flight when mum was flown out in labour with me from Leigh Creek to Broken Hill. I love flying out and working with the indigenous communities and on remote stations. It’s a very varied workplace with a combination of remote primary health care and emergency retrieval. I am really keen to have these experiences, meet these people and develop these remote skills. In rural medicine it’s important to become very, very adaptable.
Whilst I explore rural medicine, Sue is continuing to work on the island, commuting back and forth from our base just south of Adelaide. Where I land—where I end up—ultimately, the journey is unfolding. Either way, it will involve my love of the country, women’s health and babies, and I just hope that I’m just really bloody useful. And when you next hear that RFDS plane coming over the island, it might be me on board paying a visit!”