Rural generalist chooses her own career adventure
After finishing medical school at Monash Clayton in 2005, Melbourne-born and bred Elise Ly wanted to work and live rurally but hadn’t had much exposure to rural medicine in Victoria. ‘Rural generalism’ had not been coined then as a discipline and didn’t present as a potential career pathway.
Elise had, however, experienced the excitement of rotations in remote Cooktown, Far North Queensland, under a John Flynn Placement Program scholarship, two weeks a year over four years. The experience was formative. It was the early 2000s and Cooktown was then accessed via an unsealed road. “It was really exciting, like a travel holiday, working in a remote part of Australia.” Elise says. “It captured my imagination and was very influential in staking the whole idea of working and living rurally,” she says.
Elise enjoyed her time at Monash and cites lecturer and “guru of general practice” Emeritus Professor John Murtagh AO as a valued mentor and “fantastic lecturer”. She added a diploma in obstetrics and worked as a volunteer at a rural hospital in South Africa for six months. Like Cooktown, the experience reinforced the idea of facing challenges in medicine with limited resources.
Elise is now a GP obstetrician working in Leongatha, South Gippsland, her home of 10 years.
“It’s really exhilarating to be a doctor where your presence makes a big difference and where your contribution is really important to the community. There’s a huge shortage of doctors and ultimately rural communities miss out or have to travel further for their health care, increasing the inequity gap between metro and rural,” she says.
Elise lives on a hobby farm in the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges with her husband Joel, also an obstetrician GP, four children aged from eight to 18 months, cattle, chooks, dog and a few sheep. Joel, whom she met at Monash on a clinical rotation in Traralgon, Gippsland – “thank you, Monash!”– had started working at Leongatha when Elise was working in Melbourne after finishing medical school and before starting rural generalist training.
“Joel introduced me to Leongatha and that consolidated for me that I could switch to rural generalist training as well, then come and live and work rurally,” Elise says. “It’s a beautiful part of Victoria, safe and tranquil.
“I could never have envisaged that’s what I’d do but am really appreciative of it. Having said that, I also appreciate opportunities to go up north and work more remotely in Aboriginal communities, and the flexibility to choose your own adventure in your work.”
Elise is studying anaesthetics, adding to the “tool kit” she’ll take on those adventures.
Monash Rural Health celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Monash Rural Health is Australia's oldest and largest rural clinical school and has advanced regional health through workforce education, research and community engagement since 1992. To mark this milestone, inspiring stories from alumni, staff and researchers across the School will be shared throughout the year.