Meet Anna-Marie O'Mahony- An Irish GP who doesn't see herself anywhere else

Member news
18 October 2016

Dr Anna-Marie is a GP in her second year as a trainee, she came here all the way from Ireland in 2012 and as the title suggests, she doesn't see herself leaving New Zealand anytime soon.

In the last couple of years Anna-Marie has been on placements all throughout the North Island and she absolutely loves what we have on offer here in the way of adventure and the great outdoors.

She’s currently taking some time to get experience in another scope; dermatology. “I’ve always gone for the things that I found most challenging and that’s why I’m developing my learning in dermatology at the moment,” she shares.

Anna-Marie says that she was always going to go into general practice but she did spend some time getting to know a few other specialties; obstetrics, paediatrics, and the E.D in her medical officer years.

During her GPEP1 year she really enjoyed the small group sessions she’d have with her group on Wednesdays run by Linda Pirrit and Alan Broom. She still keeps in touch with the group now and hopes that they will become her GP peer group.

Anna-Marie found her house officer years in Ireland difficult, “It was double the hours, we were often understaffed and it was stressful, so I decided to take off for six months.”

She travelled to Borneo, Hong Kong and Sydney. It was while she was in Sydney that she heard of a job going as an obstetric registrar in a town called Whangarei, “I’d never heard of Whangarei before,” she says with great pronunciation, Irish accent and all.

“My favourite part of working in general practice is the patients – I enjoy seeing them all. They’re what makes it worthwhile.”

Anna-Marie is honest in explaining the challenges she has faced as a trainee GP, “It’s so lovely but it’s tough with the time pressure. I know that will get better; I just have to get practice condensing things down – that will come.”

She explains the pace of general practice to be quick, “Some days are so quick, they just roll into the next. I think to myself, ‘what’s today going to bring?’ And the scope is so wide, a patient could come in with anything. But that’s what makes it exciting.”

Anna-Marie spent some time in a rural setting during her house officer years. It wasn’t until then that she saw much deprivation.

She expands, “I was incredibly naive to the level of poverty in parts of New Zealand. There is definitely deprivation and experiencing that helped me to form a rounded view of the healthcare system here in New Zealand.”

Anna-Marie’s also seen what healthcare, or sometimes sadly the lack of, is like in developing countries.

While she was in her second year of university a trip to Kolkata, India gave her an eye-opening experience. She went with a group of 14 to teach English to one of the lowest castes who also worked as rubbish pickers on the city dump.

“Once a fortnight a GP would come and visit the school, she had a Tupperware container of medicine. These kids wouldn’t have even dreamed of being treated in a hospital.”

In her fourth year elective she went on the Surgeon Noonan Programme which is run annually. The group visited a healthcare centre in rural Zambia.

“Two GPs ran the whole centre. I don’t know how they did it. They were faced with all kinds of conditions to treat; malaria, rheumatic fever, paediatrics, obstetrics – they did so many C-sections too. They also had lots of infants and babies come in with burns because of fire outbreaks.”

The nearest hospital was two hours away down windy dirt roads.

Anna-Marie says that these two experiences inspired her decision to become a GP, “These were next level GPs. It was seeing how they made do with so little.”

She is now settled in Auckland, where she says, everything fell into place. While she was in Whangarei she met her partner who’s an orthopaedic registrar.

To finish, Anna-Marie shares some tips for those considering general practice:

  1. Try to thinking of ways to keep the balance, right from the beginning – “It’s like being a new child at school, I was exhausted after my first day. You’re always engaging with the patients and that can use a lot of energy.”
  2. Exercise – even if you feel tired.
  3. Ask for help – engage with your colleagues because there is less interaction than the hospital environment.
  4. Remember that general practice is challenging all on its own, it’s not the ‘easy option’, but it’s a great option.
  5. Remember what it means to take on the responsibility of being a GP.