WA News Trailblazers Informality Breeds Excellence
Informality Breeds Excellence
Written by By Mr Peter McClelland
Sunday, 01 June 2014


Dr-Ann-Lewis-May 14220Dr Ann LewisDr Ann Lewis isn’t completely comfortable with the notion that she’s ‘blazed a trail’. Nonetheless, it’s been an interesting career trajectory from a young doctor lacking confidence to a medico commended by her peers who really hit her straps in obstetrics and who now sings the praises of information technology.

“I was very under-confident early in my career and found the entire process daunting and stressful.

I could easily have decided that medicine wasn’t the career for me,” the 56 year-old GP Obstetrician told Medical Forum from her rooms in Kalamunda.

Ann very nearly didn’t do medicine at all. She was heading for a more conservative and, at the time, gender-appropriate career of nursing.

“But I did well academically and my physics teacher said, why don’t you do medicine? It hadn’t even occurred to me. I trained in London, had twins – a boy and a girl – and did my GP training in Cornwall. I also did some obstetrics and psychiatry training and then came to Australia in 1991.”

Halls Creek, here I come
After her first 12 months on the Central Coast of NSW at Gosford, Ann found herself at Halls Creek, thoroughly acclimatised to the informality of Australia, which she said suited her well.

Anne reaffirms the positives of remote medicine and its inherent benefits in the development of professional skills. She also reflects on different aspects of the urban/rural divide.

“Halls Creek was a fascinating and wonderful time. It’s a different country out there and I was seeing things like rheumatic fever, end-stage kidney disease and leprosy.

You don’t have the luxury of back-up and investigative options and it made me take responsibility for my decisions.”

“The longest time in one place was the 10 years I spent at Narrogin from 2003. That was a fantastic and rewarding experience but demanding nonetheless. It’s difficult not to make yourself available virtually all the time and that can be stressful.

The obstetrics there was wonderful and a definite high point was going back to KEMH in 2010 and developing skills in caesarean section.”

“Dr Anne Karczub helped me enormously and it was one of the best things I ever did. It stretched me professionally and I loved it! The manual side was wonderful and made me feel like a proper procedural doctor.”

“Having come back to urban medicine I do miss the personal familiarity of a small rural community. But it’s a more specific and self-contained role that I have now with the reassuring knowledge of plenty of clinical backup.”

  Dr-Ann-Lewis-2-May 14350From a patient perspective
An increasing trend for West Australian holiday-makers is their Bali adventure ending in tears. In July 2013, after a motor-bike accident, Ann Lewis became another statistic.

“I ended up in RPH with a fractured ulna and a medial malleolus that needed screwing back together. It was my first substantial experience as a patient and I ended up on a four-bed ward with two loud and demented patients.

It was awful! And it’s amazing how vulnerable it makes you feel.”

“It doesn’t reflect badly on RPH because it’s ICU and that’s where you need to be. I went on to Bethesda and that was a brilliant experience. Nonetheless, it was an interesting time.

I was in a wheelchair for six weeks and people would direct their questions to the person pushing me. It’s as though you’ve lost your mind. The whole thing has made me more compassionate towards people in similar situations.”

Young Doctors
Ann’s daughter Chloe followed her mother’s footsteps into medicine. She was a resident at SCGH and is currently in the US doing a Masters in Public Health and working with medical device companies in Silicon Valley.

“There’s been amazing changes in the training of doctors. There’s much more access to information, that’s definitely been democratised, and the supervision is a lot better than it was in the past.”

“In the UK when I went through medical school, it was top-driven from the consultant down, it was pretty much sink-or-swim and quite easy to slip through the net. There’s a lot more care and support now for young doctors. I’m really impressed with the residents I see at Bentley.

They’re switched on and much more confident than I was at the same stage.”

Ann thinks the development of IT And social media is good news for medicine.

“I’ve only written five tweets in my entire life but I’ve done some work at Bunbury ED and they’ve been pioneers of the whole social media in medical education area.

They create and share free podcasts so it’s a real democratic sharing of information.”

Ann is now working at Bentley Hospital one day and Mead Medical three days a week, and a weekend every month doing obstetrics at Bentley.