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19 September 2022

Community life enriches varied practice

Community life enriches varied practice

Dr Craig Acton works across general practice, emergency medicine and obstetrics and gynaecology as a GP registrar in the southern Queensland rural town of St George.

Moving between the local medical practice, St George Hospital and outreach services, each day is varied for the Townsville-born doctor, who was part of the second cohort of JCU medical graduates.

Since moving to St George in late 2020, Dr Acton, wife Lucille and children Stella, 10, Hannah, 8, and Oscar, 6, have embraced community life in cattle and cotton country.

“I enjoy being actively involved in the St George community, not only as a doctor but also by being involved in school, sporting clubs and community events with my family,” he says. “The team of doctors I work with at St George are very supportive senior clinicians who provide diverse experience as I undertake my training as a GP registrar.”

Dr Acton did RACGP-approved, JCU-organised core hospital training terms in St George – an earlier stage of the training pathway not usually accommodated outside major regional centres.

After gaining a degree in Medical Laboratory Science at JCU, Dr Acton completed his Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery in 2006. Spending his intern and first few postgraduate years at Nambour General Hospital, his interests gravitated towards general practice and obstetrics and gynaecology.

“After completing my DRANZCOG (Diploma of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) at Redcliffe Hospital, I was accepted into both the general practice and obstetrics and gynaecology training programs,” he says.

“I chose to pursue a fellowship with RANZCOG, but after eight years of training I was unsuccessful in my final examination. Re-evaluating my career path, my ongoing interest in general practice led me to rural general practice where I can use my skills to provide a service to a small community.

“GP was always of interest due to the variety of presentations. It also allows me to build relationships with patients and to provide them with holistic health care.”

One of Dr Acton’s most memorable experiences as a doctor was his first unsupervised caesarean section: “It was a category one emergency due to foetal bradycardia. My consultant was off site at the time and arrived after I had delivered the baby. I remember my hands shaking as I closed the uterus and abdomen, and my consultant patting me on the back telling me I’d done a good job. Both baby and mother recovered well.”

Dr Acton looks back fondly on his time at JCU, having maintained friendships long since graduation and been exposed to many valuable practical experiences in rural and low-resource environments.

“My final JCU placement in Chennai, India, provided cultural immersion as well as insight into practice in a facility with minimal resources,” he says. “It was an experience I will never forget, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity.”

NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

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