Dr Talila Milroy jumped at the chance to undertake the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association Academic Post in 2020.
When the opportunity to undertake an RACGP Academic Post arose, Dr Talila Milroy did not hesitate to get involved.
The Western Australian GP was always interested in developing and furthering general practice research, and the post allowed a structured framework to delve into the data.
Now, having undertaken a year as the 2020 Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) Academic Post holder, Dr Milroy is continuing her part-time research role and furthering her study into the experiences and impacts of racism on general practice training.
‘You develop so many skills, not only in research but in teaching as well,’ she told newsGP.
‘It’s also the networking; you gain communication skills because you’re teaching medical students, and you get more of a grasp of how to design research and ask questions that are clinically relevant, useful and translatable.’
The AIDA post was first earmarked by the Department of Health as part of the Federal Government’s Closing the Gap strategy. The post is an identified training term open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs in training to undertake teaching and research that aims to improve the health and life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Dr Milroy, for her part, ‘spruiks the post a lot’.
‘I always tell people to apply if you’ve even got the slightest interest … in medical education or research or answering clinical questions that apply in [general practice],’ she said.
Applications are open now for the 2022 intake of the RACGP Australian General Practice Training Academic Post. Entries close on 5 July.
The program aims to develop the research and clinical thinking skills within the general practice profession through the supported program of teaching and learning part-time at a research institute, while also furthering clinical skills as a GP.
People can design their own individual research plans and learning programs that build on their interests.
It is through the AIDA post that Dr Milroy is continuing her research into the impact of racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs in training.
Given the disruptions of the 2020 COVID-19 year, the research is still underway.
Dr Milroy’s project aims to highlight the positive aspects of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander training experience while giving them a voice. It combines qualitative and quantitative research, though the interviews have been challenging, not just because of the logistics of the COVID-19 disruptions.
‘Understandably, people are reluctant to speak about these [racism] experiences,’ she said.
‘Even though I am an Indigenous registrar, so I do try to make it a safe space, it is something that is difficult to speak about.
‘Anecdotally, I know people are having these experiences, and I am myself. This is something that in a research setting it is not easy to be involved with.’
Dr Milroy says Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in training face different incidents than their non-Indigenous colleagues.
‘We do have to deal with things that non-Indigenous registrars don’t deal with, things like racist remarks or comments about Indigenous patients,’ she said.
‘We have unique experiences and backgrounds. This can make us really good doctors for our patients.’
Overall, she says, the diverse and unique backgrounds and experiences of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cohort of GPs in training brings many benefits to patients and healthcare.
‘We have a real sense of community and giving back to our community with a strong sense of social justice and patient advocacy,’ Dr Milroy said.
‘I think Indigenous registrars do that really well.
‘We have a really good ability to relate to people in a holistic way. That kind of encompasses principles of social and emotional wellbeing. That is really what general practice is all about and what it strives for, [and] it’s probably why lot of Indigenous registrars and doctors are drawn to the profession.’
Having taken up an ongoing role as a Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences Lecturer within the University of Western Australia’s Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, Dr Milroy intends to continue her research interviews before finalising the write up at the end of the year.
The research will also provide feedback to the RACGP and other training organisations about the experiences of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and how they could improve existing support structures.