For Dr Han Nyi Naing, it was the heartbreaking experience of watching from afar a military coup in his home country which proved to be a life-changing moment in his journey to becoming a GP.
Han, a NTGPE GP Supervisor based in Alice Springs, remembers trying to juggle passing his final exams alongside the emotional turmoil of the evolving situation in Myanmar, where civil wars have been a constant feature of the Southeast Asian country’s socio-political landscape since it gained independence in 1948.
“About two to three weeks before my exam, Myanmar had a military coup with massive protests breaking out across the country,” he explained.
“Innocent people were brutally slaughtered by the military regime, with human rights violations at their peak.
“I was packed with anger, grief and guilt during that time. I couldn't study at all.”
Han, who works at Central Clinic, said he is thankful to NTGPE for the emotional support the pastoral care team provided during his hour of need.
“One evening, I received a surprise phone call from Sue, my NTGPE pastoral carer, just checking in with me to ensure my wellbeing, as she had seen my country's news on television,” he said.
“Her kind gesture warmed my heart. She gave me such good pastoral care.
“Luckily I did well and got through my exam.
“Retrospectively reflecting, I learned what I needed to be a Fellow during my time in training, and now, I realise the journey teaches you more than the exams.”
Han, who attained fellowship with RACGP, has been passionate about general practice since his undergraduate years, and has now found his niche in Alice Springs.
It’s a family affair for Han, with his wife also in NTGPE training, and along with a young daughter, the family is settled in the town at the heart of Australia.
“Alice Springs has been kind to me, and has welcomed me with open arms – it definitely feels like home here. It is unique, chaotic, and has a strong sense of community spirit.
“I have been here for over five years now and never regretted choosing Alice.”
Han is a man who speaks from the heart, and is grateful to NTGPE for the support it has provided him and his family.
“I was not coping well with being a first-time parent, so there was a time I had to choose and prioritise,” he said.
“I decided to go part-time and I got all the support I needed from NTGPE staff, training posts, supervisors, friends, and family during my dark times, and I am here where I am now because of them.
“I value my experience with NTGPE so much. The pastoral care team, admin staff, medical educator team, and training advisors have been enthusiastic and helpful from the start to finish of my training journey.
“I am also thankful to my excellent supervisors and mentors, especially Andy, Colin, Sam, PD and Michael, who motivated me to become an educator and a good GP myself.
“One of the ways to obtain the next generation of kind doctors is to provide the kindness and support they need when going through their training, and NTGPE GP supervisors provide extraordinary support for their registrars.”
Han encourages anyone considering studying in rural and remote medicine in the Territory to make the leap.
“Rural and remote medicine is both challenging and rewarding. Almost every day, we work together to improvise and help each other as a team to get the best outcomes we can get,” he said.
“Of course, some days are stressful, but patients' good results motivate us to keep going.
“The main characteristics people need to bring are resilience, open mind and teamwork – skills you will learn quite quickly if you are willing.”
And what does the future hold?
“I am particularly interested in Aboriginal health, addiction medicine, and mental health. In the future, I see myself as a medical educator/GP,” he said.
“I am planning to be involved in an academic role teaching medical students and supporting medical registrars.
“I also want to continue practising my mental health and addiction medicine scope in the GP setting.”
Trusting relationships, holistic care, and work-life balance are the main factors that helped Han choose general practice over other careers – and his passion to help others is evident.
“I believe every human being should have equitable access to quality health care,” he said.
“I am saddened by the barriers we encounter in real life, especially for disadvantaged people who do not have a voice or find it hard to find their voice.
“So, I am dedicating myself to advocating for my patients and making a stand for what's right and what they deserve.”