Dr Naomi Maclntyre

Cate Swannell
Med J Aust
Published online: 17 September 2012

Dr Naomi MacIntyre is training to become a breast physician at Sydney Breast Clinic

Why did you decide to become a breast physician?

I had been away from general practice for 5 years travelling overseas. When I returned to Australia in 2004, I knew the upskilling I would need to re-enter general practice was significant and felt I would rather learn something new. A friend had applied for a job as a breast physician, something I had never heard of. It involved working in the field of breast cancer screening and diagnosis as part of a multidisciplinary team, doing imaging, procedures and coordinating patient care. Training was on the job and part-time, and no after-hours, on-call or weekend work was required. My friend couldn’t take the job so I jumped at the opportunity to work at Sydney Breast Clinic. A year later, she was so impressed by how much fun I was having, she reapplied and we are both still loving it 7 years on.

What do you enjoy about the training?

I enjoy the atmosphere of the multidisciplinary clinic. It’s very busy in a collegial way. I enjoy the procedures and the imaging work. I received excellent supervision from the senior breast physicians and other doctors over the first several years and gradually increased in independence. We have 30–40 patients a day (for three clinicians) and by the end of the day everyone is sorted.

What have been the main obstacles/challenges?

Breaking bad news is always sad, and it is a regular part of the job. Coming from general practice, the imaging component was new to me. It takes a while to develop a sense of what you are looking at. I’m not good with technology, and that is a challenge with the high-level imaging equipment we use. Other challenges are harder to describe — they are to do with boundaries. Breast physicians are not recognised as a subspecialty group. As you are not a surgeon or a radiologist, you need to be careful that your clinical decisions are consistent with what these other groups would do.

What advice do you have for doctors interested in working as a breast physician?

This job is suited to someone with a strong interest in women’s health, who enjoys procedures and feels they could learn to love imaging. You need to be able to balance the opinions of a group of health professionals with the needs of the patient for a result that keeps everyone happy. I find it works well with my family commitments. Many doctors hold a fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners before they begin training as a breast physician. It’s probably best to spend time observing in a breast screening or diagnostic clinic to get a sense of whether it’s something you could enjoy. The pay is not great and the job market is small. I earn more than what I earned as a GP registrar but less than what I earned as a qualified GP. Once qualified, I will still earn less than my GP colleagues but there are other breast physician jobs that pay better.

What do you plan to do when you finish training?

At the moment I am happy where I am and have no other plans!

  • Cate Swannell



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