Xavier Harvey’s motivation for his year of Rural Clinical School was not solely medicine –he also saw Esperance on Western Australia’s remote southern coast as an opportunity to pursue his passion for surfing.
It proved to be rewarding on both fronts; particularly in terms of his career and where it would go.
That year – 2007 – was the most significant to date; it confirmed Xavier’s belief of what medicine is all about … and the way he wants to practice it.
“There are a few reasons why that’s the case, but I think that, at a fundamental level, it probably comes down to the relationship between the doctor and their patient.
“It is about the how the provision of healthcare happens there – Esperance is lucky in that they have some really, really good doctors and what makes them really good is that they communicate with their patients like normal people. It may sound basic, but I think that is something that I am still getting better at: talking to patients like they are normal people.
“They may never be the most expert in any particular field, but there would be few who could match them in knowing as much in many different fields.
Those doctors include Don Howarth, Mike Meares, Richard Clingen, Karl Staer and Wally Byrne.
Interviewed the year following RCS, Xavier reflected on the lifestyle, the breadth of clinical challenges and the patients, as well as noting a common perception among students who undertake the year: that the work in rural, remote and regional areas “fulfils a need.”
Almost a decade later those views remain. But among his changes is Xavier’s now defined path into medicine which, today, has him working in Echuca in regional Victoria as a Surgical Registrar on course to his letters and qualification as a surgeon.
“There is an intersection in surgery between the ‘hands on’ and the cerebral,” he says.
“Surgery has a wonderful way of bringing things together where your training and scientific knowledge gives you the experience to make judgement calls while you have quite a unique ability to do things with your hands. I think that’s pretty special.”
Xavier’s journey to surgery has not been straightforward – by his own admission, he has “probably moved around a bit much.”
He did his internship in Darwin and followed that with a year in Chile completing a degree in philosophy and gaining a diploma in languages. After that it was a stint at Taree on the mid-north coast of New South Wales; a Critical Care Unit in ICU and anaesthetics in Newcastle, 120 kilometres down the coast; back to South America for a diploma in tropical medicine, followed by research in Melbourne and two years as an unaccredited surgical registrar.
In 2016, he landed in Echuca at the start of his accreditation training – part of which he is aiming to undertake in Alice Springs and Darwin.
Raised in the city, but being a “country lad” by inclination, Xavier understands the quandary of what rural and regional life offers compared to the city, both professionally and via lifestyle.
“I like the external intellectual stimulation of the city; I love the music, the opera, going to book clubs, and it is pretty hard to have that same stimulation in rural places. But, having said that, I also love riding my bike and surfing and a pretty simple life.
“Certainly, professionally in surgery, I would have a more interesting career in the country.”