#2 Member Profile: Dr Jackson Harding

27 April, 2018

Dr Jackson Harding runs a specialist anaesthetic practice in Bendigo, but when he’s not in theatre, he’s serving his country as a 27-year member of the Army Reserve.


Why did you want to join the Army Reserve?

It was something that just seemed to be the right thing to do. Both my wife’s family and my family have had many members who have served over the years, so it was something that always had been there as something that was worthwhile pursuing. The idea of service is something that runs deep in the family. I was approached while I was still an anaesthetic registrar by some of my senior colleagues who asked if I’d like to join and I thought, “Why not!”


Have you been in areas of combat and dangerous situations?

Yes, very much so. They’ve all been classed as war-like operations or non-war-like in the case of Bougainville and the Solomon Islands, but both Rwanda and East Timor were classified as war-like. There was a constant level of threat. It’s hard to define but it was something that was ever present and always in the back of your mind. The ADF trains you for just this situation, you learn how to deal with it, how to respond to direct threats. You come to rely very much on the people around you, and they on you. Being in these sort of environments and working hard with good people forges some very strong bonds.


How difficult is it combining the defence role with your regular work as an anaesthetist?

It’s always a matter of striking a balance and over the course of my defence service I have moved from being a full-time specialist to being a private practitioner in a large group, to now being a solo private practitioner. As a staff specialist it’s actually relatively easy – there are provisions within the awards for military leave. When I was in a large group my then partners were also very accommodating. Now I’m in a situation where I’ve had to set aside certain days in my schedule so that I can fulfil army commitments. I also find that the surgeons that I work with are all very supportive. They all see that it’s an important job and if I say to them I need to organise something for the army on a particular day and need to get somebody else to cover my list, they are all very accommodating. 


Is it something you would encourage other doctors to do?

Very much so. To be fair, it is not for everyone and I’m well aware of that. But if you are at all inclined to give something back to the community in a particular way, defence is a very, very good way and a very rewarding way. It’s a chance to practise medicine in an environment that is very different and sometimes very challenging.


Do you feel like your experiences in the army have enhanced your development as a doctor?

Without any doubt at all. The exposure I’ve had to command, management and leadership has had direct relevance and crossover back into my civilian practice. I was fortunate enough to be selected to go to Australian Command and Staff College where I gained a graduate diploma in management and that has also had direct relevance to my civilian work as well.


This is an edition version of an interview which featured in the April/May 2017 edition of Vicdoc.

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