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Professor Doris Young and academic general practice

Interview by Karen
Med J Aust
Published online: 18 February 2013

Professor Doris Young holds three positions at the University of Melbourne. She is Chair of General Practice, Associate Dean (Academic) and Assistant Dean (China) in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. Here, she shares the enthusiasm that has helped inspire the next generation of general practitioners

I completed general practice training after graduation from University of Melbourne and then did a fellowship in adolescent medicine at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle, USA. During that time I was exposed to academic family medicine at UW and upon return to Melbourne, I joined the University of Melbourne department of community medicine as a lecturer and that was the beginning of my academic GP career.

As an academic GP having worked in a university for over 25 years, I find the variety of roles I hold rewarding and challenging, and teaching medical students about communication skills and general practice is most satisfying.

In the beginning I was interested in paediatrics, then specialised in adolescent medicine, completing a research higher degree, an MD [Doctor of Medicine], in the area of adolescent bone health. But, at the end of the day, I was drawn to problem solving, caring and managing the whole person and people from all age groups. Having breadth in medical skills and knowledge appeals to me and I thrive in a community setting working with a multicultural population.

My areas of expertise are general practice education and research, in particular conducting research into health care for models that can improve health outcomes for patients with chronic diseases.

Seeing generations of medical students whom I have taught for 25 years graduate and find their own career paths has kept me going. To see them grow from bright-eyed young medical students to practising doctors, regardless of their chosen specialties, continues to inspire me. To be able to offer guidance and provide them with the network I have developed nationally and internationally is pleasing. Of course if they become GPs, I will be even more pleased. Then seeing some go on to develop their careers further to become leaders, educators and researchers in general practice fulfils the passion I hold for academic general practice.

Building the next generation of academic GPs has been my mission. Balancing clinical, teaching, research and administration roles has been the greatest challenge in my career but it is also this diversity of roles that keeps up my enthusiasm.

I have two key mentors. Professor Charles Kent Smith at UW (now at Case Western University), who showed me what an academic family doctor is all about in the early 80s. He taught me how to teach communication skills to medical students and what types of research we can do in primary care. His enthusiasm was infectious. Also, Professor Neil Carson from Monash University, who showed me how to establish a strong and respected Department of General Practice within the university. I was inspired by the way he developed the GP curriculum within the medical course.

Looking back on my career, I am proud to have mentored many academic GPs in Australia and to have established the academic discipline of general practice at the University of Melbourne. I’m also proud of having been able to continue to work as a part-time GP in Broadmeadows for over 25 years despite all my other commitments.

I would definitely recommend a career in general practice. General practice is about providing medical care to a broader population base in the wider community and to be able to teach these special skills well to medical students has a great impact on the health of the community. The results from GP primary care action research often can influence health practice and policies, which is very rewarding.

  • Interview by Karen


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