Dr Abhishek Verma: GP of the Year 2022

Melbourne’s Dr Abhishek Verma: Working with the vulnerable, at the Refugee Health Service, is 'meaningful work'

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38-year-old Abhishek Verma admits to being surprised when he was announced as GP of the Year by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

“To be picked from amongst 40,000 GPs – many of who are older and more experienced, having practiced for decades – was surprising,” he tells Indian Link. “But it was humbling – and I’m proud and grateful.”

It’s an honour he shares with Sydney’s Dr Anju Aggarwal.

The Melbourne born and raised Dr Abhishek Verma has been practicing as a GP since 2016.

Currently he works at the Refugee Health Service at Collingwood, and previously worked at a family practice at Narre Warren.

Dr Abhishek Verma, GP of the Year 2022, with wife Swapna
With wife Swapna at the award ceremony (Source: Supplied)

Describing his current work he says, “As a mainstream GP I looked after patients who were health literate and had a good understanding of the process, and mostly had good outcomes. At Collingwood I gravitated towards recent migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who couldn’t or wouldn’t find access to mainstream medical care. They need help to navigate the health system, and encouragement to get involved in their own health. As vulnerable people, they often end up with poorer health outcomes, and are the people most in need of our support. I am trying to contribute there. They are treated for free.  Part of being a doctor is to make a difference in people’s lives. Small things can make a big impact, you know.”

Is that a different career choice as a doctor?

“It’s not as rewarding, but it’s meaningful,” he offers.

Seeing patients have good outcomes, is a career highlight according to him.

“To see depressed, withdrawn individuals go on to have happy functional lives with families of their own and productive careers, that’s meaningful. Or again, to work with a team of other health care professionals to see improved quality of life and better outcomes for patients, that’s meaningful.”

General Practice is not what he had planned, though.

“I was in surgical training for several years, actually. It’s very competitive. I was offered a position of ENT surgical trainee at rural Queensland. It didn’t suit my family at the time as my wife worked with PWC and we had just had a baby. So I switched to General Practice and took on a position at Melbourne.”

Source: Supplied

Perhaps he’s avoided the burnout that hospitals are said to have caused in Australia’s young doctors, which reached crisis levels last year.

“Yes, hospital work can take a toll on you – covering wards, emergency, then administrative duties, and that too with not a lot of support. But things are improving now, and we’re seeing greater emphasis on welfare.”

He should know, having inspired two younger brothers to follow him into the profession and take on successful specialized careers.

Dr Verma is also involved in education, with roles at the University of Newcastle and Monash University. As well in governance roles, he serves on the Victorian Medical Board (its youngest ever member, taking on the role when he was just 33); on the Boards of two rural health services; on the expert committee for Standards in General Practice, and is an RACGP examiner.

Which brings us to the question of the challenges that overseas doctors routinely face in requalifying in Australia.

“I absolutely agree that it is a difficult process, given my own experience on medical boards dealing with this,” Dr Verma replies. “However qualified you may be – with post graduate degrees even – it could be difficult to get into the system. But there are services out there that could help you in the process, and doctors who could mentor. In the end it will be worth it.”

He adds, “Did you know some 52% of GPs in this country are overseas-qualified? When I worked at Narre Warren I learnt a lot from the doctors there, and they were trained in India or Sri Lanka or Pakistan. In fact, I learnt more from them than from med school.”

Talking of med school, what advice does he have for students about to start at uni?

“Medicine is such a diverse field that there’s something for everybody,” Dr Abhishek Verma, GP of the Year 2022, observes. “Explore carefully the direction that you want to take – whether in medical administration or medical law or surgery or any of the other specialisations.”

READ ALSO: Dr Anju Aggarwal: GP of the Year 2022

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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