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GP17: a student perspective.

Written by Ben Green, MD4, Flinders University

I was beaming with anticipation as I arrived at Sydney’s International Convention Centre for my first major national conference as a med student, GP17. A0 poster sheathed in tube in hand; I had contributed to a pilot study authored by a GPEx Registrar, Dr Chirag Patel, whom I had met the previous year during my rural placement in the Barossa Valley. Now that I was attending the conference, I could co-present it with him. What a double whammy!

The first morning’s proceedings included a thought-provoking keynote from Sherpaa founder, Jay Parkinson. It was reassuring to hear that there were innovative approaches to primary health care being developed elsewhere in the world; I have had similar ideas about how we could use technology better during my time as an observer of general practice.

Some of his challenges to Australian GPs resonated with me: The concept of non-linear consultations is fascinating, and the fact that most other digital communication is non-linear means that future generations will likely want to talk about their health in that way as it will seem natural. There’s been a lot of focus on how GPs build meaningful relationships with their patients and how critical that is to optimising outcomes, however, Parkinson made an interesting point in saying that many people ‘just want their problem fixed’ and so the future of General Practice will need to take that into account as we move toward digital platforms. It will be a long journey to implementing something like Sherpaa in Australia but I was glad to be met with that challenge at such a high profile national forum alongside so many passionate Australian GPs.

It became apparent to me quite rapidly that the conference was attended by contributors. I was amazed that every time a delegate was introduced publicly or in conversation, so many of them were involved in working groups, councils, boards, special interest groups, training and education positions, as well as doing clinical work. Attending the AGM and Convocation re-emphasised this to me, as I caught a glimpse of the inner workings of the college and how members were so encouraging of each other to keep doing the good work that they were passionate about for the mutual benefit of the entire membership. Gone is my preconception that GPs shy away from research, advocacy and progress.

It was great to attend educational sessions ranging from ‘bread and butter’ paediatrics and ‘weekend warrior musculoskeletal injuries’, through to hot-off-the-press research findings. The poster I co-presented in the exhibition hall was about antibiotic stewardship and we have a manuscript in draft extending that research project. I was fortunate to have attended a session presented by GP Synergy’s Registrars’ Clinical Encounters in Training (ReCEnT) research project that related directly to new research which will knit together well with our findings.

It was a privilege to welcome our new National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Paul Worley, for whom I have great respect having been a medical student at Flinders while he was Dean of the School of Medicine. I also took pride in supporting a fellow Flinders student, Alisha Thompson as she presented her research about perceptions of declining fertility and ovarian reserve in an abstract session that was so well received that she did her talk twice back-to-back for those who missed the first run!

Attending GP17 demonstrated to me that GPs are an inclusive group that take great joy in seeing each other at this annual celebration. They are authentically grateful for the work of their peers in research, advocacy and governance. They always have their patients in mind and are looking for how they might better serve their local community by adopting ideas that have worked for other GPs. They have a grounding in the science that matters to them. They care about the quality of the evidence, they engage with the research, and they try to maintain the balance between critical and skeptical appraisal of new ideas and simultaneously open and willing to adopt practice-changing innovations. They publicly express admiration for each other, celebrate heroes and remember founders. They have amazing skills of intuition and understanding people, skills that are perhaps underutilised.

I gained insight into myself as a future doctor. I am more keen to pursue general practice than ever. I really enjoyed meeting new people with whom I have a common interest, of all ages and backgrounds. Sir Harry Burns’ keynote address reassured me that my experience before med school of working with kids with trauma and attachment issues was not wasted and increasingly will be of value in understanding long-term health outcomes as we pursue knowledge in ‘salutogenesis’ to balance ‘pathogenesis’. I am drawn to areas in medicine where psychological factors are important. I’m excited about the future of GP in Australia and I can’t wait to be a part of shaping it.

I want to thank GPEx for sponsoring my attendance at GP17. The experience has been foundational in crafting my future career.

– Ben Green
Final-year Doctor of Medicine Student at Flinders University
SALHN Intern in 2018

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