Only as recently as 18 months ago and hitting the big three-zero did I start to take my health seriously.
Ironically despite working in the health industry for the past 6 years I was particularly good at telling others what they should do but put up the classic male bravado when it came to health; refusing to go the doctor until I could not get out of bed and telling myself “it will go away”.
Without going deep into the trials and tribulations of my health history (I’ve saved that for my book Mr Perfect) I will tell you about why I value my GP.
With the release this week of the RACGP “The Good GP Never Stops Learning” advertising campaign, it prompted this blog piece that I had been meaning to write for a while now.
Having worked in the General Practice space and continuing to do so the TV advert caught my attention and hit home personally. The advert charts a GP’s consults over decades with a family, sharing their most tragic and happy moments. I have to say despite mixed reviews about its intentions, it tugs at the heartstrings.
My first 25 years were spent in England or “the UK” (as we say here in Australia) and I had the fortunate experience of having the same GP for almost that entire quarter of a century.
An Egyptian-born man he was an absolute delight to have as my family GP. He would occasionally laugh in spasmodic bursts almost as though he was panting but you could see the concern in his eyes when something was serious, looking over the top of his glasses.
When I arrived in Australia I visited my wife’s GP once or twice but then lost contact. I worked in the city and therefore when needed would rush across to a bulk-billing practice to be seen during lunch. Usually of the many GPs that “treated” me across multiple practices, most would barely look up from their desk and I was in and out in less than 5 minutes.
When I moved back closer to my wife’s family GP again, I made the life-changing decision to take my health seriously. One appointment later and I was on the right path.
I have never felt more comfortable with a Doctor. My GP comes out to the waiting room and greets me with a smile and my first name. He asks about my (Australian) family. He insists I call him by his first name too.
Not only this but I value his advice, referrals and his network. One specialist he has referred me to exhibits the same comforting demeanour. Both have insisted they are always available in an emergency and even though I would likely not call them, they are willingly there if needed.
The practice itself is what I would call “old-school”. Technology is used but they do not even have a website and it feels homely. My GP wants to know about my work life, my home life, what I am eating and drinking and gives me his undivided attention when I talk. He looks me in the eyes.
My GP naturally did not know my 25 year health history in the UK and his care has meant that I took proactive steps to write to my former GP in the UK to ask for a paper copy of my complete health record (believe me it is many stuffed manila files). The practice thankfully obliged, despite me not really knowing the legalities and privacy around this. (This could easily prompt a whole another blog about the push for e-health and electronic health records and the debate that surrounds it).
My GP encouraged me to know my family’s physical and mental medical history, despite how emotionally painful it may be to know. My father died almost 2 years ago, mainly prompted by alcoholism, but I immediately I left the practice and set about trying to find out more so I at least had the knowledge and peace of mind that came with it.
My GP may privately bill instead of bulk-bill but I would pay double each time to get that service and the guidance to wrestle back my health strategy from reactive to preventative. My wife and I are lucky enough to have full-time work and health insurance to pay for GP visits.
He is the GP I visit with my wife, sometimes together in the same consult. He is the GP I want to take my children to if we are lucky enough to be able to have them in the future. He is the GP I will share the toughest and the most joyous moments.
He is the GP that will be the spark to give me the confidence to encourage others, especially men, to take their health seriously. Watch this space.
By Terry Cornick