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27 February 2024

Adventure Calls in Tropical Island Paradise

Adventure Calls in Tropical Island Paradise

Enticed by a tropical adventure, Dr Joshua Baker travelled almost 5,000 kilometres across Australia to seek out the rural medicine experience in Far North Queensland. Reality more than met his expectations and prompted a permanent switch from the Outback to the Tropics. 

“It always was a plan to head to Cairns in the year following internship back home in Western Australia,” Dr Baker says. “The whole ‘Rainforest meets the reef’ lifestyle really appealed to me. I wanted to spend some time up here and I guess I just haven’t left!” Dr Baker says. 

While completing his junior doctor years at Cairns Hospital, Dr Baker got a glimpse of the general practice scene in the Cape and Torres region and was immediately drawn to it. 

“When I saw GPs there, I thought they had the best job in the world. You’re getting to do a diverse range of clinical work in the emergency department in the hospital and out in remote clinics. These guys are at the forefront of primary care.” 

Dr Baker says the process of applying for general practice training was quite straightforward. After completing an entrance exam and interview in Townsville, he completed six months of training in Cooktown and a further six months in Babinda before heading to Thursday Island (Waiben). 

“The training sites are similar in that they’re Queensland Health facilities, but they have very different contexts with unique health care needs. On Thursday Island, there is a shortage of some of the advanced skills, like general practice obstetrics. You can see that across the wider Far North region with birthing services closing. It means now there is no other birthing service available between Cairns and Thursday Island.” 

“No two days are the same. Looking at the week ahead, I’ll have some time at the hospital in ED and on the wards and then time in the Primary Health Care Centre on the Island, then I’ll be flown out to some of the other islands’ primary health clinics. We also provide outreach to the outer islands and even on occasion see patients from Papua New Guinea.  I think the diversity of what can happen in a day or a week here is incredible.” 

While the Cape and Torres region offers the laid-back Island lifestyle, Dr Baker says it’s also the place to be for go-getters who are keen to pursue career advancement opportunities. 

"TI is a really interesting place to train because the doctors here have a range of different experiences and backgrounds. There are a lot of procedural cases here for the obstetricians and a lot of clinical experience in critical care. You also develop your problem-solving skills with the extra layer of logistical considerations for providing care to the outer islands. The medical workforce here is focused on investing in the education of students and junior doctors.” 

“With general practice, you learn skills you can apply anywhere. There's so much opportunity for sub-specialisation or to pursue special interests. There are so many potential avenues of employment with a general practice fellowship. It’s not as rigid as most other specialties,” Dr Baker says. 

Dr Baker certainly has the most of exploring the Far North, which he says was a big selling point.  

“It is a tropical island paradise. We picked up a boat last year, and we’ve been getting out on the water as much as we can. You can go for a picnic on a neighbouring island, and check out some beautiful hikes and waterfalls. It’s pretty special!” 

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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.

Cairns region
(07) 4226 8187

Central West region
(07) 4764 1547

Mackay region
(07) 4885 7122

North West region
(07) 4764 1547

Torres and Cape region
(07) 4095 6103

Townsville region
(07) 4781 3424