It’s not uncommon for doctors to study medicine after trying their hand at another profession. What is rare, however, is making that transition after first working as a high school teacher.
That’s what Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Valerie Thompson did after teaching in Kaniva, Victoria, and at Trinity College in Gawler. And while teaching and medicine may seem worlds apart, Valerie insists that for her, it was a natural progression.
“I was very interested in medicine because it was an extension of what I was doing as a biology teacher,” says Valerie.
“At the end of my second year of teaching I decided I wanted to pursue medicine… I decided I wanted to learn more about the human body and how it works.”
Valerie says she puts her experience as a teacher to use in her work with expectant mums every day.
“A lot of medicine is educating people about their bodies and different conditions of the body. In terms of pregnancy, what’s happening to the body and what the different treatment options are… I use those skills all the time.”
Initially, Valerie had wanted to work as a paediatrician because of her background working with children – that was until she did an obstetrics rotation as part of her studies.
“I think obstetrics is a speciality that chooses people. It never gets old – seeing a baby born and seeing a woman become a parent is not something that you get sick of.
“Working in Obstetrics and Gynaecology takes education, hard work and a lot of empathy. You are dealing with women from all walks of life and stages of life – women who are infertile, have cancer, have happy pregnancies or sad pregnancies. It’s such a varied group and it’s important we have empathy for all of them.”
And while the job isn’t without its challenges, the most significant of which are complications during pregnancy and miscarriages, that’s balanced by the strong bonds Valerie is able to form with her patients.
“The best part is meeting a young couple at the beginning and then following them through to delivery and seeing them become parents – sharing in their journey.
“And when they come back for their second child you feel like they are an old friend coming back – you catch up and pick up from there.”
Valerie chooses to see her patients at North Eastern because of its strong connection to the local community.
“It has a lovely community feel and everything we need to diagnose and treat patients. It’s not an overwhelming place to come (and) the staff are very good and very nice. It’s a great place both to work at and be a patient at.”