New Zealand – Bay of Island and Rotorua

From Portland, I headed to New Zealand. Having never been to New Zealand before, I was keen to pack as much sight-seeing int the the short time I had before visiting my next hospital. So, I headed to Rotorua, which is a tourist mecca. It’s most famous for its thermal pools, which did not disappoint! Thermal Pool3 Thermal Pool2

Here I was also convinced to go along to a “traditional Maori dinner”. It was totally geared towards tourists but also very fun. We had a presentation which included songs and a haka and then had Haangi. Haangi is a Maori way of preparing food for special occasions and uses a heated pit for heat. We were well fed!

Mitai2 Mitai Haangi

Another wee tourism pitstop I made was up to the Bay of Island. It was glorious and I even caught my supper (the scallops I’m holding in the bottom picture).
Quite different to dry suit diving on Scotland’s east coast…!

Bay of IslandsDiving for Scallops 3

Australia – Portland

After Tasmania, I spent some time visiting family in mainland Australia, including the Gold coast, which was kangaroos galore. Check out the joey!

Kangaroo with joey popping out
I then headed to Portland, Victoria. Portland was the first place Europeans settled in Victoria.

They have some special residents: two albino kangaroos! Here is one of them and an emu:

Albino Kangaroo










I particularly enjoyed the sections of The Great South West Walk that ran through Portland. It’s a 250km long bushwalking trail, which is immaculately maintained and has lots of little offshoots with lovely outlooks.

PortlandCove Portland

Whilst in Portland, I was able to observe many of the healthcare services that are provided there, and hear about the challenges they have being some distance from the nearest large hospital. Portland does have a hospital of its own, complete with operating theatre and maternity services but it is some distance by road for transferring patients in emergencies. As with everywhere else I’ve visited, the emergency transfer of the critically ill patient is constantly analysed and discussed.

One of the interesting things about my visit to Portland was visiting the local Aboriginal Corporation, which runs a free drop-in GP service. It’s not (usually) free to have an appointment with a GP here in Australia. While an appointment with most of the GPs (and all of the ones I’ve visited) is very affordable, the cost is seen as a barrier to lower income populations accessing healthcare. We are lucky in the UK to have free access to healthcare but it’s very interesting to see how other countries manage their populations’ access to services.

Australia – Tasmania and local industry

Whilst visiting a particular practice in Tasmania, I noted that many of the injuries the patients were visiting the doctor with were work-place related. The local meat works was the town’s largest employer but the repetitive nature of the hard work (and, sometimes, sharp knives accidentally going astray) meant it was actually quite a dangerous place to work.

Keen to see as much of the contributors to health as possible, I organised a site visit:

image10[1]I particularly enjoyed the extra large heavy duty wellies (or gum boots, to be very Australian about it).

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Australia – Tasmania, King Island

After three weeks in mainland Tasmania, visiting rural clinics, I boarded a plane to King Island. King Island, pop. ~1600, is part of Tasmania but is located in the the Bass Strait – between Tasmania and the mainland. It is famous around here for dairy and, happy days, cheese. While there, I spent time with the local GPs, had a tour of the incredible nursing home facilities, did home visits with the community nurses and spent a day with a visiting psychiatrist.

This was my plane ticket:Sharp Airlines Plane TicketI’d not seen anything quite like it before…

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Australia – Tasmania

Hello from Down Under!

I’ve been here since the start of January and am having a ball. Everybody I’ve met has been very friendly and the Australian way of life is great: there are BBQ pits on every beach and in many neighbourhoods, free for anybody to use, and the wildlife is fantastic. I am yet to see any snakes (phew) but have seen wallabies, kangaroos, emus, a Tasmanian devil (it may have been roadkill…) and some beautiful birds (including a gannet colony, nice to know what my mum means when she says I eat like one!). No koalas yet, but I’m on the lookout. I’m still not used to seeing kangaroos and wallabies all over the place (particularly on road, the daredevils)!

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USA – Alaska, Unalakleet – In Pictures

A collection of pictures from around town…

Unalakleet 1

Unalakleet 3

The High School:

Unalakleet 2

There are boats (and reminders about life jackets) at every turn:

Unalakleet 6The snow and ice that was on the ground when I arrived a fortnight ago is all but gone. There are a couple of iced-over puddles remaining: they break like thick glass with a satisfying crack when you stamp on them!

Some frozen water does, however, remain:
Unalakleet 5 Unalakleet 4

Going to take my bagels out of the oven now: I managed to get the dough to rise (yeast don’t like boiling water? what?).

USA – Alaska, Unalakleet – Hello Alaska!

Having stuffed my suitcase with more Labrador souvenirs than I could ever need, I headed to Tennessee for a week’s holiday.Guitar Pool

Then, back to the medicine.

I’ve now been in Alaska for the past week or so, in a small village called Unalakleet. Please look it up on google maps: It has a population of a around 650 (no Google Streetview, unfortunately) and is on the west coast of Alaska. I can’t express how lucky I feel to be able to visit this fascinating, beautiful place, nor how excited I have been since I found that this visit was a possibility.

Unfortunately, there is not much daylight here at the moment, and recent bad weather has meant that the sky is overcast, so I haven’t taken many pictures. The views on the (tiny, of course) plane here were spectacular, though:


I promise I will take some more pictures, soon!

Alaska has different ways of doing lots of different aspects of healthcare. Indeed, NHS workers in Fife have visited Alaska and have trialled some of what the learned on their return. The clinic here in Unalakleet is clinical staffed mostly by Community Health Aides, a role that I don’t believe the UK employs, under a system of triage and treatment that works very well – maximising the use of the solo doctor’s time. There is even a dental service here, which has is a little different from back home, too.

The local community is very close knit. Talking to some of the local school’s teachers, it would appear that the community is very keen on good quality education: evidenced by the teachers enjoying working here and a very busy extra-curriculular schedule at the school.

It has been my pleasure to spend time here: everybody is just so friendly and kind, including all the patients. Appointments at the clinic are usually an hour long, which leaves plenty of time to hear the elders’ stories about hunting, fishing and marriage. Apparently, in the past, weddings were followed by a honeymoon hunting. I’m not surprised: everybody here is proud of the incredible local food and loves to tell their hunting tales. There are so many knowledgeable and articulate elders that I already feel I’ve learnt a lot about their culture, just by hanging around!

Unalakleet was expecting a storm this week (looks like the worst of it has passed, and that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been) so we went to a storm planning meeting with the local emergency services. The community’s main concern was looking after the older people in town and making sure they were all safe: they were no mention of funding or to whom various resources belonged, just plenty of offers of help and resources that could be put to use.

On one of my first days, the staff at the clinic brought in native food for us to try:


I had seal, whale, and multiple types of salmon. Though I was apprehensive, it was all delicious. Such a treat!

Canada – HVGB: A Marathon, Thanksgiving and Coastal Flights

Last weekend was the town of Happy Valley – Goose Bay’s annual Trapline Marathon. As a newcomer to town, I was immediately volunteered to help out…

The marathon was a fantastic example of what a small town can pull together to achieve: it was a phenomenal event and I was delighted to be able to attend. I was tasked with helping to set out the food for the post-race athletes. Along with the obligatory moose stew, there was also fish and brewis, pronounced brews, (a Newfoundland dish of fish and potatoes, mixed together and served in a mound) and toutons (another Newfoundland special of fried dough). Deee-lish!

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