For Dr Salman Junejo, it is the opportunity to work as a GP in both remote Aboriginal communities and mainstream urban practice which convinced him he made the right decision to train as a GP in the Northern Territory.
The RACGP GP Registrar, who was born in Pakistan and grew up there until moving to Australia as a teenager, has already undertaken medical studies in New South Wales and Queensland before arriving in Darwin as a fifth-year medical student.
“I really wanted to come to the NT as it is multi-cultural and one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world,” he said.
“There are stark differences in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and my desire to help address and improve it is probably a driving force behind my choice to remain and live here.
“My ultimate goal is also to work as a remote GP in Indigenous communities part-time and to work as a mainstream urban GP the other half.
“I truly love the mix both spectrums bring, and feel I’d be unable to leave either completely behind. There are very few places I could easily do that besides Darwin.”
Whether it is a smile on a dementia patient’s face, or the ability to communicate with someone who has lost the ability to speak, Salman speaks passionately about his experience so far in the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program.
“I have loved my time in both mainstream and Aboriginal Medical Services,” he said.
“At the moment I am helping look after an elderly couple where one of them has dementia that is progressively worsening.
“We have been able to help manage some of their symptoms and organise support programs.
“The ability to help someone in distress and watch them progressively improve, to be able to bring joy into their lives, and to be able to have that continuity of care, is truly inspiring and makes me return each day to what I love doing.
“Last year, I also had a patient who had throat cancer and, after surgery and multiple rounds of radiotherapy, had lost the ability to speak.
“He had multiple co-morbidities and would bring a diary in with himself. I would speak, and he would write everything down and that is how all our conversations took place.
“For the six months that I looked after him I witnessed his health improve, and saw him regain weight and feel happy with life.
“It was truly humbling and a reminder why I began this journey in the first place.”
Salman is undertaking a remote placement in his next term of training, working in Katherine West across Lajamanu and Kalkarindji, which provides new, yet exciting challenges.
“My biggest challenge, which is ironically what I am also looking forward to most, is my upcoming remote term,” he said.
“My wife is an emergency medicine registrar and we have a seven-month old daughter.
“My family has been immensely supportive and my wife is working as a part-time doctor while I work full time and then head remote.
“Leaving them behind to work remote is difficult, though I am very excited for the upcoming term, working in parts of the NT I have not explored yet and am very keen to visit.”
As a doctor in general but working remotely, Salman appreciates the importance of primary health care within the NT better than anywhere he has worked previously.
“GPs play a tremendous and very crucial role in preventing unnecessary presentations to our hospitals and emergency departments,” he said.
“I’ve been able to prevent some hospital presentations by liaising with in-patient teams via phone and achieving outcomes that are positive not just for my patients, but the health care system within the NT.”
Salman reserved particular praise for the support NTGPE has provided on his journey so far.
“The staff at NTGPE have always been accessible, and I’d like to give a special shout out to Sue Irvin, who is very approachable and an outstanding pastoral care officer,” he said.
“From admin queries to a general debrief, Sue has always been helpful or has pointed me in the right direction.
“I’ve always felt supported by NTGPE staff, whether that’s the registrar support team or the medical educators.
“It just goes to show how well the organisation works and if needed, there is always help out there.”
Salman strongly encourages those targeting a career in general practice to consider the NT as their training base.
“Helping bring comfort into the lives of my patients and working as a team with them is very important to me,” he said.
“It is quite humbling when I do make a difference in someone’s life, and never have I had more opportunities to do that than being a doctor within general practice in the NT.
“Being a GP in NT is great – I still have the option to choose what sort of practise I would like to have.
“From mainstream general practice to remote medical practitioner jobs with FIFO schedules, the possibilities truly are endless.”