#273 IWD member profile Dr Magdalena Simonis
5 March 2021
Dr Magdalena Simonis
MBBS FRACGP DRANZCOG MHHS
AMA Victoria Section of GP member
We are celebrating the achievements of AMA Victoria’s female members to mark International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
From challenge comes change, so let's all choose to challenge.
AMA Victoria strongly supports a gender equal world and medical profession. In our International Women’s Day profile series, we’re introducing you to some of our dedicated current and future medical leaders.
What is your current role in medicine?
I am a full-time GP in the Melbourne CBD, conduct research as a Honorary Senior Research Fellow with the Department of General Practice, University of Melbourne. I’m an examiner/teacher of medical students and an RACGP examiner/trainer and wear several other ‘hats’. These include being on the RACGP Expert Committee for Quality Care; the President of the Australian Federation of Medical Women (AFMW) - see www.afmw.org.au; Co-Chair of the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) Scientific and Research Subcommittee; and being on the board of Women’s Health Victoria (WHV) - see www.whv.org.au.
Why did you choose to study medicine?
The decision to become a doctor was made by me, at the age of seven. Since that time, there is little else I would prefer to do as a profession, other than perhaps teach. This interest stemmed from my love of nurturing anything from insects, kittens, chickens, rabbits and eventually, people. As a young child, I grew up in a milk bar which was opposite my primary school. I would offer to clean and dress grazed knees with Dettol and provided tissues to kids with runny noses. Even as early as grade 2, I was the ‘go to’ for injuries that occurred in the playground. There are no other doctors in my family so during my teen years, watching MASH was hugely inspirational. I still love watching the replays and even Alan Alda was impacted by his role and set up the World of Science Festival.
What is the best part about your work?
The human contact and building relationships that teach me about people, life and medicine.
I also love that I can conduct research such as the current survey I am lead researcher for, through the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) survey of COVID-19 experiences of women doctors as healthcare providers. I invite all medical women to click here to fill in this important survey. It only takes five minutes to complete.
What is the hardest part about your work?
Keeping to time. My patients now know to call in advance and double check how late I am running. I have given up on running to time – it’s the only way I can be present and in the moment with my patients.
Do you have any advice for others pursuing a career in medicine?
For me, medicine has really been like a ‘calling’ or a passion. For some, it’s not, but it is still a wonderful career path for anyone with a science-based leaning. For those considering a career in medicine I would emphasise to them that dealing with human frailty, emotion and disease requires a mix of patience and empathy, not just academic excellence. My advice is to consider what specialist path you take, based primarily upon your ability to listen and your willingness to consider the patient presentations holistically. This means taking an interest in the social determinants of health and weaving aspects of this into the decision-making process, with a spirit of co-design. People are people first, not diseases and conditions and to remember to start every conversation from this premise.
If you were Health Minister for a day, what changes would you make to the health system?
I would increase support to general practice, because it’s the most logical way to improve the health of the nation as well as making an annual saving of up to $3 billion. Simply by supporting GPs and their teams to manage conditions commonly resulting in preventable hospital admissions, the imminent blowout of the whole trajectory of chronic disease and ageing, can be improved.
I would action the following:
- encourage continuity of care for patients within their preferred practice via voluntary patient enrolment
- support the role of GPs and their teams in coordinating care with hospitals and other health and social services
- recognise increasing patient complexity by introducing a complexity loading payment to GPs and practices
- support general practice–based research
- support the collection and appropriate use of general practice data to strengthen the evidence about the effectiveness of primary care, and to provide better population planning.
What do you enjoy doing away from medicine?
Many things, but mostly being with my family. I love hosting big dinners and lunches – in fact, the running joke on Saturday mornings has been, “Who and how many are we feeding tonight?” I love playing the piano, even though lack of practise means I now play poorly, so I try to forget that others are listening and continue doing so. Although I call it exercise, swimming laps and laps and laps in the 50 metre outdoor local pool is great fun too. Add to this, walking in nature, on the beach and dancing to both Greek and disco music. Acting and writing nearly swayed me away from medicine in the early student days, so these are creative outputs that fulfill me. This list just touches the tip of the many things I like doing, other than medicine.