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>>>Faces of Rural Generalism | Dr Alex Dunn

Faces of Rural Generalism | Dr Alex Dunn

Medical Superintendent, Gympie Hospital of the Kabi Kabi and Jinibara peoples, and Rural Doctors Association Queensland (RDAQ) President.

Dr Alex Dunn is a Rural Generalist with an advanced skill in anaesthetics, working as Medical Superintendent at Gympie Hospital. Alex was in the first Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway intern cohort and was also a Queensland Health Rural Scholarship Scheme recipient.

Alex’s love for rural generalism, community practice, and adventure, was ignited when he commenced work as a Senior Medical Officer in Cooktown. After two years there, Alex was unsure of which direction he wanted to take his career. “I was at a bit of a crossroads as to where to go next. An opportunity then arose for me to take on the role of Medical Superintendent in Weipa, where they had been without a permanent medical workforce for a while, and I decided a change of scenery and a challenge was what I wanted.

I never really had a plan to step into leadership, but I think part of being a Rural Generalist is being prepared for a challenge. My wife is a teacher and we decided to commit to two years in Weipa. Two years became seven and over that time the service grew to have a permanent, passionate group of Rural Generalists.”

Alex then moved to Gympie with his family to undertake his next leadership position with Gympie Hospital as the Medial Superintendent. “My work at Gympie Hospital involves a mix of clinical and non-clinical work, and I continue to work in anaesthetics and emergency. The Medical Superintendent role is really a mix of proactive and reactive work as Gympie services overs 60,000 people, in and around the surrounding areas. No two days are ever the same, and I really enjoy that aspect of my work.”

Alex is never one to shy away from a challenge and happily welcomed the opportunity to assume the role of President of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) in July 2023. “I have been on the committee for a few years and was elected as President of the organisation last year for twelve months. I have a great network of support and people I can draw upon for advice both medical and non-medical. It has been a challenging role, but one I have thoroughly enjoyed.”

In Alex’s words, he has been “very fortunate” to have great mentors throughout his Rural Generalist career and leadership journey and he has gained valuable leadership skills and experience from professional development opportunities which he says have helped him develop skills that aren’t often taught during medical school. Working in Medical Superintendent positions and as President of RDAQ, Alex has built confidence in his abilities as a leader and has built a toolbox of valuable leadership and management skills.

“Being proactive is half the battle in becoming the best leader you can be for yourself and the rural community you serve. Undertaking projects locally or seeking roles that offer an opportunity for you and the community, will be of benefit to the success of your leadership goals.” Alex encourages future Rural Generalists to join organisations such as the QRGP and RDAQ, and ACRRM or RACGP, which can provide them with the opportunity to develop leadership skills and help them be a valuable part of a rural community’s success.

Alex knows putting your hand up for leadership roles can be daunting, however, he believes that without taking risks, you can’t fully progress in your career if you keep asking the ‘what if’ questions. “Don’t overthink it. Say yes to the opportunity if it comes along. A lot of what we do as Rural Generalists on a day-to-day basis is leadership, but stepping into a formal role gives you the opportunity to make a far larger change for the better.

I absolutely love the work, and the challenge rural medicine contains, and fortunately that has led me to my career thus far. For me, there is no other role like rural generalism. You get to practise the full spectrum of medicine where it is really needed in some of the most spectacular places in the world. It is so rewarding to work where there is a need and try to make a difference.”

To be a leader, Alex says “patience is key when entering leadership roles – think slow and act fast. I wish I knew that prior to my journey, however, it’s all a learning experience and one I am thankful to have learnt.”

For those commencing a career in rural generalism, Alex has three top leadership tips to share:

  1. The little things are the big things.
  2. You can’t/don’t always have the answer, but you always need an approach.
  3. Leave a place better than you found it.
Jun 18th 2024| Faces of RG, |