Outgoing RVTS Board Director, Dr Vlad Matic, is an icon of the rural medical community in Australia and has brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the RVTS Board.
He has worked as a GP and GP Anaesthetist for more than 25 years in remote, rural and regional Australia, including 15 years in the northern NSW town of Walgett. From 2011 to 2017, he was Director of Medical Services for the Wuchopperen Health Service, a community-controlled Aboriginal health organisation in Cairns.
Vlad took five minutes out of his busy schedule recently to answer a few questions for us.
What got you interested in Medicine as a career?
I’m not really sure – all I know is that I made my mind up about age 7 and never changed it.
What was the catalyst for a career in Rural Medicine – were you a country boy?
No, I grew up in Sydney! As a young medical graduate, I tried multiple specialties and enjoyed each one – but I always left feeling unfulfilled entirely by one alone. Sharing this quandary one day with a surgeon I really respected, he replied “Why don’t you go bush and do a bit of just about all the specialities?” I didn’t give it much thought, but after one locum stint in an isolated location where I had the opportunity to use many skills I was hooked. Many years on, I am still working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Organisations from MMM2 to MMM7.
Where was your first rural posting, and how did you find that experience?
I did two years of remote rural locums – Bourke, Brewarrina, Walgett, Lake Cargelligo, Condobolin…and loved them all – the more remote the better.
What is the most rewarding experience you have had as a rural doctor?
It’s hard to define as one event – it really is the whole experience of being entrusted with the wellbeing of so many people, and being trusted and valued by a community as well as individuals.
How did you become involved with RVTS?
RVTS had a few registrars sprinkled in the footprint of what was then the Outback Division of General Practice, and I thought it was a training and workforce solution in one. I then became an Accredited Supervisor and it went from there.
What did you learn most as an RVTS supervisor?
That you teach best what you need to learn most.
What will you take away most from your time on the RVTS Board?
The main take-home for me is what great things can be achieved when well-intentioned people of diverse viewpoints and life journeys gather, united by the sharing of a common purpose; putting organisational outcomes above their own agendas, interacting with respect, disagreeing with courtesy and never taking themselves too seriously.
A lot of organisations have statements of vision and mission but few make them real at every Board meeting – RVTS is the exception. Our Board is incredibly committed to rural, remote and First Nations communities, and never forgets that what we create has the potential to benefit or harm the lives of many people…we take this responsibility very seriously.
Why is RVTS such an important organisation on the remote GP training and workforce front?
My initial impression has never changed, that being that RVTS is unashamedly a workforce solution as well as a training body. It trains and retains by treating registrars with respect and adapting to each person and location, displaying a capacity for flexibility and innovation that few other training structures can even approach.
Why is RVTS’s training model such a popular and successful one? What makes it 'work'?
RVTS builds relationships at every level of activity and that is its core strength. Once people become data, assets, customers or any other depersonalising term you wish to use, the relationship is transactional and the magic evaporates.
How does the governance structure of RVTS work to the benefit of the organisation and its registrars?
The tone of any ship is set by the captain – the RVTS Board’s values of respect, care, civility and good humour cascade and permeate all of the organisation’s endeavours.
What is one positive experience during your time at RVTS that sticks with you?
The fact that RVTS has been able to place registrars into communities where other training schemes dare to tread.
Will you continue to have an involvement with RVTS after moving off the Board?
I will without doubt continue to promote the merits and ethos of RVTS whenever possible.
What interests do you have outside Medicine?
When I’m not intensively parenting I like travelling, walking and reading. In September, I’m travelling to Tanzania to summit Mt Kilimanjaro on the full moon, which I know will involve lots of walking by day and reading by night.
Thanks very much for answering our quick fire questions, Vlad!