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, 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 – 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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Canada – Bear Island and Nipissing, Ontario

Today I took a road trip and it was great fun. It might be something about being in Canada: I saw lots of pick up trucks, drivers were very courteous and we made a stop at Tim Horton’s (maybe more than one). Anyway, the trip was to visit two First Nations Reserves.

As I mentioned before, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine places all first year students in Aboriginal communities for a four week placement. Furthermore, the school works throughout the year to maintain and strengthen links with local communities and to ensure that they are accountable to these communities. Some of the communities are close to NOSM’s campuses in Sudbury and Thunder Bay, others are further away. This map is a brilliant illustration of many of the areas that the medical school reaches out to. We visited two that were within driving distance of Sudbury.

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Canada – Sudbury, Ontario

My first stop is Sudbury, Ontario:

Population (according to Wikipedia): 160 274
Fun fact (according to Wikipedia): The city is home to Lake Wanapitei, the largest lake in the world, that is entirely contained within a city.

When I checked in at Edinburgh Airport on Monday, I saw that my connecting flight from Toronto to Sudbury had me sitting on Row 9. I was pretty excited: perhaps I’d been upgraded for my frugality and finding the cheapest Air Canada flights possible…

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