PEOPLE: JOHN MONASH SCHOLAR – DR. ISABEL HANSON

Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for Dr Isabel Hanson

Every day is different! On Monday and Tuesdays, I work as a General Practitioner at Gandangara Health Services. I see 2-4 patients an hour and support them with everything from diabetes, pregnancy, cancer, contraception, mental health and more. Anyone with any health problem can walk through the door, and that makes the job exciting and challenging. Wednesdays and Thursdays I work at the University of Sydney teaching medical students and doing research into “social prescribing” (which is when a healthcare professional provides a referral to community activities that could improve their patient’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing). On Fridays I work as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Centre for Policy Development consulting on health policy in early childhood development. And in my spare time I work on projects to improve GP and junior doctor wellbeing, and I teach yoga and mindfulness skills for healthcare workers.

How important is diversity to you and in the work that you do?

As a GP in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health I work every day to make a culturally safe and trauma informed healthcare space for our clients. As an academic I always want our students to understand the social determinates of health, and to see that everybody belongs in medicine. We need doctors from every cultural and religious background, every gender identity and sexual orientation, and those who have lived experience of disability, mental health, and chronic disease if we are going to deliver healthcare that is inclusive and empowering to our community.

Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?

I have benefitted from white middle class privilege and so my path through medicine has been much easier than for many of my colleagues. I see one of my roles as a GP is to take that privilege and pass it back to my patients by advocating for them and empowering them to feel in control of their healthcare journey. 

The culture in medicine is rapidly evolving for the better, but I have experienced sexual harassment as a woman in medicine. I deal with it in two ways. Firstly, I have a strong support base of female doctor friends and colleagues, and we debrief together regularly about culture change in medicine. Secondly, if someone says something unacceptable as a comment or ‘joke’, I politely and loudly ask them to explain what they meant. Nothing flushes out bigotry and sexism faster than someone having to explain what they meant in front of other people.

ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH

Find a great mentor. We all need someone to believe in us and having a mentor who is further down the path from you saying “yes, you can do that” gives you courage and support. Ask people about their work and how they got there. Reach out to people who inspire you and invite them for a brief coffee. Some people will say no, but many will say yes, and you will get to learn from them about what your next steps might be. A great mentor relationship is two-way, and you can be a great mentee by being grateful, respectful, and turning their support into positive action.

Want to follow and support ?

You can find me on Twitter @isabeljhanson and Instagram @dr_isabelhanson.