GPs Down Under, as an entity, is kind of a hard thing to describe.
In it’s most basic form it’s a Facebook group of over five thousand Aussie and Kiwi GPs. Depending on the day, and who you talk to, it’s also a national park, a family, a support group, an educational resource, an advocacy platform, a source of entertainment, a soapbox and a time-sink. Sometimes it’s ablaze with controversy. Sometimes, it’s a lifeline for drowning colleagues.
Indeed, this motley crew of so many GPs from across the spectrum of cultural, geographical and clinical backgrounds was always bound to end up as complex and varied as general practice itself.
So I was interested to see what would would happen when, last week, a couple of hundred of those GPDU souls congregated on the Gold Coast for the first ever conference. And believe me, #GPDU18 was NOT your typical GP conference.
We came together from all over, each of us there as “just a GP”. Not in the derogatory way that it is sometimes applied to us, but as individuals free from the affiliations and agendas of our colleges, workplaces and organisations. Here was a place where we could take off our many official hats and just be ourselves.
The result was three days which really got to the heart of what we do as GPs, reflecting the three pillars of GPDU: learning, peer support and advocacy. Highlights for me included:
- EBM legends, Paul Glasziou and Chris Del Mar helping to translate evidence to real world practice
- John Drinkwater taking us through a tear-jerking fireside chat about the importance of home visits
- Louise Stone with a confronting presentation around sexual assault of doctors by doctors (donate here to help her spread the message)
- A masterclass from Paul Grinzi and Cameron Loy on opiates and drug addiction
- A workshop from Pam Douglas, sharing her passion and expertise of breastfeeding and baby settling (check out her group’s page for some excellent resources)
- Edwin Kruys’s thought provoking talk on tribalism and building bridges
- The most “Down Under” GP of all, Kate Kloza, phoning in from Antarctica to tell us all about her unique and fascinating life there
- Karen Alexander’s funny and memorable presentation comparing developmental milestones to images and characters. Who knew that twelve month olds are Bambi, 9-month olds are Maggie Simpson, and 3-year olds are Thomas the Tank Engine? Brilliant!
- And dozens of other ordinary, front line, wonderful GPs being vulnerable, debating, discussing, sharing and teaching about topics that are important to all of us
There was also plenty of opportunity to come together, not just as doctors, but as humans. Cute kids and dogs mingled with the crowd, bringing smiles all round. We indulged our interests in cooking, astronomy, karaoke and wearing silly pirate costumes. A talented GP string trio performed a musical interlude of the PBS authority hold music and we were entertained by brilliant musical colleagues at the conference dinner.
Sponsors reportedly remarked that they were surprised to see a bunch of doctors having so much fun, and ultimately, that was what set this conference apart; that pure sense of fun and joy, the liberal use of cat memes. And sure, the running of the conference was kind of loose, a little chaotic at times and troubled by the odd technology fail. Less of a tight ship and more of a pirate ship, shall we say. But really, isn’t that a perfect reflection of general practice? That things don’t always run smoothly, that we run off course, but we forge great relationships and get there in the end?
In her talk, Louise Stone said; “It might be difficult, and it might be complex, but that’s not a reason not to do it.” To me, that is the perfect way to sum up #GPDU18 and everything we do as GPs.
Thankfully, it’s not so much “farewell” as “talk to you later” as we reconvene back online on the GPDU Facebook page. For those who missed out, check out Casey Parker’s #GPDU18 interviews on the podcast, and I’ll catch you at #GPDU20!