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9 May 2023

Meet Dr Stephen Lambert, Director of Clinical Training at Mackay Hospital

Meet Dr Stephen Lambert, Director of Clinical Training at Mackay Hospital

Medical education means much more than teaching for Dr Stephen Lambert, the Director of Clinical Training at Mackay Hospital. 

Dr Lambert, who landed in Mackay a decade ago as an International Medical Graduate from South Africa, takes a holistic approach to nurturing junior doctors’ development as head of the hospital’s Medical Education Unit. 

“The Medical Education Unit looks after interns and doctors who aren't on a vocational training program. We make sure doctors are well supervised and look after their welfare,” he says. 

“For us, wellbeing includes career development, so making sure doctors have good career counselling, that their career pathways are mapped out, not only in Mackay but across the North Queensland education programs.  

“It’s also ensuring they get good mentorship and coaching on the floor. We try to provide a supportive environment by creating a culture where doctors feel like they're getting coaching, mentoring and supervision while working.” 

Dr Lambert, a general practitioner at Southside Medical, started his Australian medicine career in Mackay, having completed his internship in Johannesburg. 

“I came to Mackay as a Junior House Officer, and I've been here ever since. I got regional rotations in Proserpine, Sarina and Clermont, which was really amazing in terms of preparing me for getting on to the GP training program,” he says. 

“My extended skill as a GP registrar was medical education. I was involved in delivering lectures to interns and doing simulations. We've had a number of GPs in Mackay come through the medical education registrar role and complete that extended skill here.” 

Mackay has plenty to offer interns and junior doctors, in addition to the professional and personal rewards of diverse practice in an area of need. 

Quality mentoring 

“The advantage of medical training in Mackay is the proximity of the experts – senior medical officers and consultants – to the intern. They're prepared to coach and mentor students, interns, junior medical officers as part of their day-to-day business. We're very keen on making sure interns actually operate as doctors, so you're not just the scribe on the team, you're not just shadowing – you’re actually treating patients, but you've got close supervision.  

“You've got someone watching over your shoulder, you've got someone who's coaching you through your career. If you look at the medical education evidence, that's the best learning is actually doing it with someone watching you and guiding you along the way. And I think Mackay does that really, really well. We don't have all the big hotshot professors in their fields, but we do have experts who are willing to invest their time and effort into your development.” 

Building your CV 

“You can complete all of your GP training in Mackay. Rural generalists can do advanced skill training in paediatrics, mental health, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics, and we hope to get general medicine across the line. You can do all of your psychiatry training in Mackay. If you're looking at critical care specialties like Emergency Medicine, Intensive Care Medicine, and Anaesthetics, you can do about half of your training in Mackay. In terms of basic physician training and surgical training, most only spent about a year in Mackay.  

“Mackay is a great place to get on to the surgery and orthopaedics programs. You'll get your logbook and your research components done as a Principal House Officer, which will set you up to get on to the program. Mackay is a good place to get the theatre experience and the research and build your CV to get on to those programs. 

“In terms of the physician and paediatric sub-programs, once again it’s a good place to do one to two years of basic physician training. For those specialties, it's a good place to prepare for exams, because you're exposed to a wide variety of patients. You're not spending all your time in a subspecialty; you're getting a little bit of everything, which is good for exam prep.” 

Research support 

“Medical education falls under our innovation and research portfolio, or MIRI, which is the Mackay Institute for Research and Innovation. We're really keen on making sure junior doctors get research opportunities. We can guide and mentor them through a quality improvement project, such as an audit, which is often the first place for a good research project. There are opportunities for research projects, poster presentations and working with special research programs.” 

General practice during internship 

“Southside was one of the first set of practices to take on the Rural Junior Doctor Innovation Fund, which is now called the John Flynn Prevocational Training Program. We're accredited for intern training, which means interns can do a 10-week rotation as part of their internship in our practice. Since then, Affinity Medical Centre in the Whitsundays and Awal Medical Centre in Sarina have also been accredited.  

“We know that interns make career choices based on what they’re exposed to in their prevocational years, so part of this program is exposing interns to general practice early in their career. We've had 17 interns come through over the time we've been accredited. 

“It's been a benefit to our practice, as well. When COVID broke out, the intern did a literature review on best practice in terms of patient flow in and out of the building. They helped set up our green clinic, which allowed us to keep face-to-face consultations. Anyone with respiratory complaints, which would match the criteria for COVID, is seen in a separate area to the practice to make sure there's no cross-contamination. The intern was helpful in getting that set up and it was a good research project.” 

A close-knit community 

“I think Mackay is a fantastic town in terms of enjoying your full scope of practice. the whole Mackay health region needs doctors. It's a good place to practise to the full extent of your training, which is satisfying. Mackay is small enough there are good relationships between the community and tertiary care hospital. In my role, I've got a hat in the hospital, but also in the community. I think there are some really good linkages in a town like ours where there are good close working relationships.” 

Find out more about training in Mackay.  

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