A/Prof Suzanne Mckenzie

Back to front and probably upside down describes my pathway to both academia and the completion of a PhD with the CPHCE. I have been a general practitioner for 25 years and have worked in a variety of practices in NSW and now Queensland. I am a true generalist, interested in everything and everyone. This describes my research interests as well as my clinical interests.

After many years of working in clinical practice and doing some research and teaching with the RACGP, I embarked on an academic career with UNSW in 2003. I was responsible for developing one of the courses for the new medical program, Society and Health 2 and also taught general practice skills to the more senior students. I did a number of small projects investigating different aspects of chronic disease prevention and had several publications to my name. I finally was dragged kicking and screaming into a PhD in 2007 when I was lucky enough to be included as CI on a large NHMRC project with Professor Mark Harris and colleagues. I developed my proposal in conjunction with the project and investigated the mental health aspects of the intervention designed to address cardiovascular risk factors in general practice patients. I conducted a mixed method study motivated by my patients who were always telling

me (literally or otherwise) that “stress” prevented them making lifestyle changes that might benefit their health. I thought I would explore psychological distress in the participants in the randomized controlled trial and see if indeed stress played a part in either facilitating or blocking attempts at lifestyle behavior change.

So, seven publications later (three as first author) and lots of hard work, a thesis was written and the PhD awarded in July 2014. The answer to the question, not surprisingly, is complex and the thesis a good read. To get there, it was 7 long years of persistence peppered with significant personal and professional challenges and you might say it was all worth it in the end. I moved to James Cook University in north Queensland in 2010 and am now the Head of the Discipline of General Practice and Rural Medicine, Director of Clinical Studies for the College of Medicine and Dentistry, the Primary Health Care Coordinator for the Anton Breinl Research Centre for Health Systems Strengthening, the Clinical Coordinator for the North Queensland Practice Based Research Network   and, in my spare time, the Assessment Panel Chair for the RACGP North Queensland Sub- Faculty.

I teach medical students in all 6 years of the undergraduate medical program at JCU, have supervised two MBBS honours students, am a research mentor for a Masters student and have just accepted my first PhD student. I travel extensively in north Queensland as we have students and staff spread out over an area that is more than twice the size of NSW, from the Torres Strait in the north, down to just south of Mackay and west to Mt Isa, Winton and Longreach. As I fly over the Barrier Reef for a day or two of work in Cairns, or over the red dirt and cattle country of western Queensland on the way to Mt Isa, I pinch myself about how lucky I am.  As I cross the Gulf of Carpentaria and see

all the massive rivers flowing north on the way to see students in Darwin, I wonder how a GP from northern Sydney ended up in this wonderful part of the world. A part of Australia which is a land of great beauty but where we still have great health disparities and where we have populations that are underserved. A land where we are training a health workforce who have the right skills and attitudes to work in the places of most need and know how to make a difference to their communities. What a privilege to be able to use the skills and knowledge that have been entrusted to me by my teachers and mentors to contribute to this cause.