The Manawatu GP currently works at Massey Medical Centre, on the Massey University campus in Palmerston North, as well as being a medical educator for the region and volunteering for the sexual assault service in a forensic capacity.

“I enjoy the challenge that variation brings,” she says. “I think it keeps you active, you are constantly learning in those areas.

“Student health, as a general practitioner, can be quite limited in its scope so it’s important to have other things to keep your expertise and your skills up.”

Dr Robertson came to her current role after spending five years working, the last three as clinical director in a large practice in Kings Cross, Sydney, with 13 GPs, a pharmacy, a specialist centre and a radiography service. 

Her caseload was very different to that in Palmerston North as she was treating and diagnosing cases of syphilis and HIV on a daily basis, providing chronic care and addressing the area’s severe drug and alcohol issues. However, the varied population meant she also saw young families, working people and the elderly.

Dr Robertson was also asked to work in the IVF clinic in the last 18 months of her time in Australia.

“You never knew who was coming into your rooms from one day to the next!” she says. “I loved it!”

Dr Robertson often thinks about the positive aspects of the Australian health system that she would like to see here in New Zealand.

“Obviously they have a much bigger population and a much bigger health budget than we do, but two things I really loved were access to imaging and a radiologist I could pop in and have meetings with - which was all Medicare covered and funded – and the accessibility of healthcare to patients who couldn’t necessarily afford it.”

Her volunteer on-call position with the sexual assault service requires her to work alongside a forensic nurse, carrying out examinations at the request of the police. She has long held an interest in this field and plans to widen her knowledge by completing several forensic academic papers.

“I’ve always been a fan of Agatha Christie and criminology,” she laughs. “I find it very interesting, the whole science of DNA and forensics, how you can actually map what’s happened to somebody and give them the answers they need or are looking for. It’s very rewarding.”

As a medical educator for the Manawatu, Dr Robertson is always looking for opportunities to help extend the knowledge and expertise of young registrars entering the profession, as well as helping older GPs keep up to date with new developments and find ways of working that address some of the challenges they face.

Student health, as a general practitioner, can be quite limited in its scope so it’s important to have other things to keep your expertise and your skills up.”
She was a member of the committee that recently held the inaugural Manawatu RNZCGP Conference, which saw more than 70% of the membership attend.

“It came about when we were planning what else we could do to add value to our community,” she says. “We have never had a conference here, everyone has to travel and pay. People are time-poor too, with their families, so we decided to bring it here.”

The event aimed to replicate the wide cross-section of cases that GPs see in their clinics, with presentations from specialists and allied health services. Nurse practitioners in the area were also invited.

“Our goals were to strengthen connections between tertiary services, increase our knowledge on the really key areas that we see, and to work with our new registrars – to give them collegiality and further improve their education with what they can learn from our specialists, and the older crew as well,” Dr Robertson said. 

“With our specialist speakers, we tried to take a very good sample across the common things that would be seen in general practice, the things that commonly trip us up or that we have got questions about.”

“We also had a special theme this year to acknowledge our long-service GPs in the region.”