When Sarah McNamee’s plans to deliver medical education in the USA were no longer an option due to the COVID-19 outbreak, she turned to her other passion – rural health – in search of a way to fill the gap in her 2020 work schedule. 

When Sarah McNamee started her Doctor of Medicine with Griffith University, her plan was to return to her country roots to live, work, and contribute her medical skills to a rural community. Today, she’s on her way there, training as a registrar with the Australian College of Emergency Medicine. 

In 2020, she had planned to take six months off her study to conduct medical education in North American, however in late 2019, the emerging COVID-19 pandemic changed her plans to see her stay on Australian shores. 

“Along with my passion for rural medicine, I’m also passionate about the ways innovations in technology can assist in medical education and delivery and I’ve started to build a career that combines the two,” she says. 

“That normally sees me presenting at conferences and working as a medical tutor and lecturer while I undertake training that will ultimately help me return to rural towns. 

“But when COVID-19 changed my 2020 plans, I realised now was a great time to give back and focus more on rural communities.” 

Today, Sarah is living on the Gold Coast while working as a doctor supporting rural and remote towns in Western Australian communities such as Karratha and Wickham. She does this not by travelling to patients, but by delivering consults via telehealth. 

“Telehealth consults use technology such as videoconferencing to help a doctor connect with a patient anywhere in the country,” says Sarah.  

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, using telehealth allows for the continued treatment of rural and remote Australians who otherwise may not be able to see their usual doctor, particularly when they would normally have to drive for a day to see one, or wait for a doctor to come into town. 

“I’ve be able to conduct face-to-face online assessments with people who need scripts, complete diagnostic assessments, provide mental health care, conduct early pregnancy screens… these are all services my patients would not be able to receive due to the current isolation orders.” 

On top of her work with rural and remote communities, Sarah is also increasingly connecting with people living in regional and city areas who are self-isolating and need medical review but can’t access their usual GP.  

“It’s a different way of delivering healthcare, but it’s just a relevant as seeing a doctor face-to-face,” she says.  

Having grown up in Toowoomba and spending a lot of time around Longreach for her father’s work, Sarah has always planned to return to rural work, and her telehealth work is enabling this goal even sooner than she had hoped.  

“My plans may have changed this year, but my goal remains the same – to provide ongoing contact and medical follow up to people living in remote Australia when they need it most.” 

Sarah graduated from Griffith University in 2015 with a Doctor of Medicine, having completed her undergraduate studies in Exercise Science. If like Sarah you’re interested in a career in medicine, find out more about the different study pathways to a career in medicine. You can find out more about the online hospital Docto here.