Saturday, 10 January 2015

Life In Fort William on the Rural Track Program

Dear FY2s,

Congratulations, you are now approaching another one of those decisive moments in your life. Your hard work over the last 7 years has rewarded you with the most precious of all things: choice. As I approach the half way mark in my training I would like to share with you my experience in the rural programme thus far; how I came to be here, what it has offered me and how it has impacted my life.

I am originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil and moved to Edinburgh in 2006 to start medical school. I graduated in 2011 together with my boyfriend, Kyle, who completed his masters in mechanical engineering with renewable energy at the same time. After graduation he got a job in a management programme with a multinational wind turbine manufacturer while I moved to Glasgow to do my foundation programme. We were in a long-distance relationship for two years as he was moved around several offices in Europe. What kept us going was the knowledge that we would both move back to Edinburgh in 2 years time. I got through the GP training application process and when the day came to rank all the jobs in Scotland I noticed that a place called Fort William was an option, and for some reason it appealed to me (even though I had never visited before). Kyle and I discussed this option over a weekend in Madrid where he was becoming tired of working the 9-5pm grind in a big city. We both liked the idea of being closer to the mountains and doing something a little different. I thought there couldn’t be a better place to learn how to be a generalist and, with no more than 48 hours thought, I clicked the “Complete” button in the application page with “Fort William” as my top choice.

Six months later I was married and Kyle had quit his job that had promised him stable progression and a good salary to move to the Highlands with me. With the amount of money that would have bought us a small flat in Edinburgh we bought a lovely house with a breath-taking view of a loch and the hills.

For the first 6 months Kyle built an energy comparison website and worked with a local charity surveying energy usage in local homes. Since then he has established an energy consultancy business to help communities and businesses manage their renewable energy projects. Alongside this he is doing a PhD on power networks with Strathclyde and Imperial College Universities. Being in Fort William has given him the opportunity to step back from the safe and unsatisfying life of 9-5 office jobs in big companies and pursue his own professional goals independently and purposefully, a process which I know he has found challenging but hugely fulfilling.

As a GP trainee I have learnt the true meaning of community practice. With time you start to notice how people within society are related, how the few industries are integral to the existence of the town, how the area has changed over generations. The character of Fort William starts to permeate through you, you become aware of people's roles, the inter-connectedness of families and the values within the community. With the right attitude you work towards inclusion. Without the pressures of city practices you find you have more time to devote to your patients. And in the tranquility of the rural environment you find the opportunity to pursue your interests and hobbies.

Over the last 2 years I have gently explored medical politics becoming the GP trainee representative in the BMA committee for the North of Scotland. I have worked on the MRCP exams and have developed an interest in the allocation of resources within the community. Of course the sporting opportunities in the Highlands go without saying, but the reality is there is much more to be said for working in the Highlands than just the outdoors. Rural communities are rich in human experience, have a real need for skilled professionals and have numerous unexplored possibilities. I came here wondering what rural practice could do for me, now I ask myself how can I help shape its future?

Roberta Lindemann

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