Sarah Moore was at the birth of the Rural Clinical School in Western Australia – one of the original seven volunteers who took part in the pilot program in 2002.
It was an abbreviated program – just three months duration with two rotations, general practice and obstetrics – but it was more than long enough to convince Sarah of the career and lifestyle fulfilment that lay ahead in rural and remote medicine.
“Phil Reid, Barney McCallum, Rachel Hammond, Dick Austin and others like Rhonda Worthington , the Administrator in Kalgoorlie at the time. Knowing this was more than just work, there was a connection there which was so deep and loving; they really just wanted the best for us in our careers and also our lives.
“Having GP and obstetrics mentors during my time with the RCS was really the most important factor in deciding this was the career that I wanted to follow. If I had been more exposed to other specialties I think that’s where I would have gone, but it was more about who they were as people, not doctors.”
As doctors, though, they were exemplary – mentors who merged students into part of the team and enabled an intensive level of practical experience. Whether it was at the hospital or in the GP setting, the pilot group were immersed in a different style of learning.
“There were just three of us (in Kalgoorlie) and we had so much opportunity to be involved.
“There is no way a student like me would have got 10 deliveries in three months at King Edward or any of the city sites; you are at the bottom of the pecking order with the competition for births shared between students, midwife students, junior doctors, senior doctors…
“In the general practice setting, too, we were a very integral part; we did numerous skin excisions and baby checks – we were part of the consult.
“If there was another doctor we were not sitting with on a particular day and they had an interesting case, they would knock on the door and say ‘come and have a look at this.’ It was very, very hands on,and we were an integral part of the team.
“I went to Kambalda with the doctors a few times and it was you and the GP. You saw patients on your own, you had your own room, you could ask the doctor questions as you go – beautiful ‘one on one’ mentoring.
“It is almost like you cannot compare the two experiences – city and country.”
Even before she had finished her three months at Kalgoorlie, Sarah’s course was set – not solely her personal path in medicine, but also her commitment to the Rural Clinical School.
“Even then I had the insight that I knew this was something I was going to be involved with for a very long time. I joined the RCS family. We talk about that a lot; that you join the RCS family and never really leave … some people are a bit closer than others, but you always have that connection or bond.”
In her final year of study, Sarah returned to the goldfields to do her rural GP rotation with the Bega Aboriginal Medical Service. After graduation, she completed her internship at Fremantle Hospital and then embarked on a career which took her to places such as Broome, Kununurra, Darwin and Katherine in the Northern Territory.
On that journey, with GP obstetrics as her chosen pathway, she completed her Diploma of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (DRANZCOG), the GP Obstetrics Mentoring Program and Advanced Rural Skills in Aboriginal health.
Following the birth of her first daughter Alice in 2011, Sarah began work with the WA Country Health Service Postgraduate Medical Education Unit before settling in Dunsborough on the south-west coast and beginning general practice in Busselton.
Just months later, she added teaching at the Rural Clinical School to her schedule as mother and GP before the birth of baby Sascha in 2013.
And it is that schedule of family, general practice obstetrics and RCS that she continues, while also finding time to establish groups such as the South West Holistic Health Practitioner Network, bringing together GPs, nurses, chiropractors, naturopaths and “anyone who has a holistic approach to health.”