Rural Generalist | Charters Towers
Dr Mardi Webb is a Rural Generalist living and working in Charters Towers, where she helps run a successful family cattle property. The variety and flexibility rural generalism offers has enabled Mardi to blend her love for medicine alongside her love for the land.
“I’ve always wanted to be a doctor and had a deep love for the bush. I grew up in the country and loved everything about it, especially the people and lifestyle. I spent lots of time in Western Queensland during school holidays growing up and loved the sense of community”.
Mardi’s interest in rural generalism was cemented during medical school rural rotations with James Cook University. “I was so excited to start rural rotations in rural Queensland alongside rural GPs and Rural Generalists. I didn’t expect to enjoy the hospital work as much I did. I loved the variety and the ability to create a work life that suited my interests, I didn’t want to leave! I joined the QRGP under the bonded scholarship holder scheme and spent the next three years in Mackay undertaking my junior doctor training and completing my anaesthetic advanced skills training”.
The next phase of Mardi’s career led her to Charters Towers, where she completed her fellowship and put down roots.
“My husband, who I was engaged to at the time, grew up in Western Queensland. His family owned and operated a cattle property in the Charters Towers region, and he was keen to head back to the bush and work on the land. I called the Charters Towers Hospital and spoke to the Medical Superintendent at the time. I told him I was interested in moving there as a GP registrar and he advised that one of the Senior Medical Officers (SMOs) was leaving. Just like that I became a Provisional SMO at the Charters Towers Hospital and we moved to my husband’s family property. Everything fell into place. We were married 6 months later and 18 months after that we purchased our own cattle property with his parents. We now have three children at school in Charters Towers; this is now my home”.
Mardi finds the variety of her work rewarding and enjoys providing medical services to her local community. “A lot of oldies know my family, they love having chats about the weather, the cattle and having someone that they can relate to. It’s very sweet”.
“When I came to Charters Towers, I was the only female doctor and one of only three SMOs with no junior doctors. I fell into the area of Women’s Health and have learnt so much from the visiting Nurse Practitioners and local midwives. It’s been on the job learning for the last 13 years to develop the extra skills needed for the role. I have had the opportunity to learn additional skills like Mirena insertions and enjoy working with the local GPs to care for the women in our community. Now we have ten doctors at the hospital including juniors, and at least three female doctors at any one time. I am now enjoying training up another female, GP Registrar, in the area of Women’s Health”.
Outside her role as a Rural Generalist, Mardi spends her time managing a household, organising three boys (an 8yr old and 10yr old twins), and running a beef cattle property with her husband.
“I manage the bookkeeping, record keeping, and along with my husband and family, the constant planning required for an agricultural business. I have learnt a lot about accounting, business processes and different software; I am constantly learning and we are always looking at ways to be more efficient, innovative and profitable. There is also the physical side of running the property. My husband has two full time staff working alongside him, but I am always the extra set of hands. Often at short notice I am needed for mustering or in the cattle yards. I try and get out into the paddock as much as I can to physically be part of the business. That includes checking the waters, grass, and livestock and making sure I see what is going on in the day-to-day business, so I can take part in the business decisions. Its variable, no one day is the same, it’s a definite change of hats from one job to the next which makes life so interesting”.
Working as a Rural Generalist and running a cattle production business comes with it challenges, but the rewards make it worthwhile for Mardi. “The main challenge is changing hats; they are very different jobs and it’s a juggling act. The test for me is feeling like I’m giving both jobs justice and doing a good enough job at each. Both require a lot of energy physically and mentally. I have found it very difficult at times keeping my head above water with all the jobs that need doing”.
“You have to be organised, plan, and to learn to say no (which I’m still working on). I’ve learnt to ask for help, but at the end of the day, it’s so very rewarding. I love the lifestyle so much that I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else”.
Mardi has learnt to keep her batteries going by balancing work responsibilities with looking out for her mental health and doing things she enjoys. “Even though there may be a million jobs still on the to do list, stop and make sure you take time for yourself and your family. Enjoy hobbies, rest, and relaxation, otherwise you become a workaholic. My husband is very good at telling me to stop and just relax. His vocation has nothing to do with health, so I find it quite refreshing and grounding. There is no medical talk at home, we tend to talk a lot about the weather, the land, the grass, the stock, which is nice. I can leave some of the intense medical stuff behind and not dwell on it”.
As for the future, Mardi is enjoying her newfound passion for mentoring junior doctors and medical students. “I get a real kick out of reviewing post rotation feedback from students and junior doctors. Seeing that they enjoyed their rotation so much that they are now considering rural general practice or rural generalism, makes it so rewarding. I love showcasing the Rural Generalist career and how different it can look. You can work part-time, find balance by doing other things outside of medicine, whilst still having a rewarding medical career. The variety and flexibility of rural generalism is what makes it so great”.