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Dr Alice Whittaker

19 July 2021


Dr Alice Whittaker is a RANZCOG Fellow, currently working in Brisbane. She co-facilitates the Queensland Foundation of Surgery course.

 

Where did you grow up?
I was born at the Royal Women’s Hospital (now RBWH) and grew up in Brisbane with a few years spent with my Scottish family in Scotland. I also spent some time in Malanda in Far North Queensland.
 
 
Where do you work?
I work in my home town of Brisbane in a mix of public and private settings. I’ve had stints living in Canada, the UK, Japan, Thailand and Western Australia but am very happy to be back in BrisVegas.
 
 
Why did you choose medicine?
I always wanted to be a vet. My grade ten work experience placement was in an animal refuge/ hospital and I loved the one surgery I got to assist with, a laparotomy on a koala. However, the rest of the week I had to work with the confiscated/ feral animals and developed a phobia of ferrets, who bit my ankles when I went in to clean their cage and feed them cans of dog food. When we got back from our work experience, my friend, who had been to an Obstetric Unit in a hospital, had helped deliver babies and seen a caesarean. I was infinitely jealous and so made the switch to humans then.
 
 
Why O&G in particular?
I’ve always been passionate about women’s health and reproductive rights but thought I’d be a GP. When I did my O&G placement in my final year of med school, that first night shift, I caught a baby and literally felt a rush of dopamine, serotonin and all the feel-good hormones of falling in love for the first time. Deterred by the lifestyle, however, I kept O&G in the background until my O&G rotation in my JHO year. It was a stellar line up of amazing registrars at the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital (RBWH) that year; ­lots of dynamic, strong women who were able to balance their training with their families. They showed me it was possible to have a work-balance. I’ll forever be indebted to these fabulous women. You know who you are.
 

What field do you work in and what are you passionate about in your field and why?
I currently have a more gynae focus: one day public gynae, three days private gynae and two obstetric shifts a month with a private on-call group. My areas of interest are endometriosis and pelvic pain, sexual pain, hormonal health and vulval conditions. I still love surgery as much as I did that first day on the koala and find the focused headspace you get into for a lap endo case or Total Laparoscopic Hysterectomy (TLH) to be almost a place akin to mindfulness. I also cherish my one day-a-week in a public setting where I get to mentor my registrar, teach them surgically and be their champion, as much as I can.
 
I’ve recently joined an exciting new venture delivering wholistic women-centred gynaecological care in a beautiful country setting. I’m learning about a whole lot of things public hospital-based training didn’t prepare me for, from psychosexual counselling to evidence based natural medicine to the role of gut health in pain and endometriosis. It’s very satisfying.
 

What does a ‘normal day’ involve?
Waking up with our toddler and making breakfast with her, consulting or operating in public or private, then having a couple of hours of mum time at the end of the day. Love my 1-1.5 days off a week to be a more “present” mum on those days, as well as weekends.
 

Challenges? Wins?
Time management in public clinics giving the woman in front of you all she needs with the resource limitations of the public setting. There’s no easy answer to this one.
 

Any future goals?
One day, when my daughter is older, I’d love to do some more work in a low resource setting. I spent six months in Thailand and a few years later, spent three weeks in Uganda and they were both such amazing experiences. My husband is French and he’d like to go back and live there for a few years. It would be interesting navigating a different health setting in a second language, but this is a challenge I’ll take on for our family.
 

What activities are you currently engaged with at the College?
I’ve been co-facilitator of the Queensland Foundation of Surgery course for the last four years which has been a great way to connect with the new first-year registrars.
 

How do you wind down?
Running is a great way to discharge stress and yoga resets me in a more calming way. I make sure I book a massage in once a month to iron out my knots. Once a week I try to recreate a spa setting at home with a hot bath with some candles and essential oils. There’s nothing like self-care. And regular holidays. Just book them in!
 
 
What do you do outside of work?
Hanging out with my little girl and husband, having cups of tea in the sun, yoga, bushwalking, and holidays to the beach.
 


Alice in scrubs   Alice out bushwalking   sunset

at desk   with kids
 



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