Featured Doctor

FLEGG, Dr Karen: WONCA Editor 2010-20, WONCA Executive 2013-18

Australia - WONCA Editor 2010-20, WONCA Executive 2013-18

Dr Karen Flegg from Australia is the WONCA Editor and a member of WONCA World Executive.

As WONCA Editor, I’ve been able to avoid featuring myself for seven years, but I have eventually given in to people suggesting that I should do as I do to others... and tell more about myself!

My current work.

I’m a family doctor working in Canberra, Australia’s capital city. For much of my working life I have lived and worked in rural or regional areas, having started my life as a family doctor in a one doctor town. I moved to the city a year ago and I now work part time in a large group practice. This allows me to do other work at the government breast screening programme, where I coordinate assessments and deliver biopsy results to women.

I consider myself to be a GP - I understand that in some countries that means I have no post graduate specialist training, but in fact I had four years of specialised training in general practice/family medicine. In Australia, that’s a GP (we don’t have family physicians).

Other things I have done.

I have really had three parallel careers – as a clinician, as a manager and as an academic. You can work half time or less, as a GP in my country which allows time for special interests.

I have been CEO of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs which is why some people think I am a “kiwi” – a New Zealander (maybe in my heart is kiwi as I really loved living in New Zealand – an amazing country, different to Australia; and I still have some great friends there!)

Something I have maintained as part of my work in for many years is medical education, undergraduate and postgraduate. I have been the Director of Training in our regional GP postgraduate training programme. Nowadays, I enjoy doing teaching visits to watch young GPs who are working in rural general practice but are still in training as a specialist GPs – it’s a great way to spend half a day and always an interesting exchange of ideas.

One of my most interesting years was in 2005 when I spent doing a mission with Medécins sans Frontières in Zahedan, in Iran. Of course the medicine was interesting but I most enjoyed the cultural experience, the exchange of ideas with colleagues, and the privilege of serving on a humanitarian mission. I kept a blog of my experiences which enabled people at home to hear about my day to day thoughts and experiences.

I have been on the boards of governance of numerous medical organisations - including my national college (and WONCA member) the Royal Australian College of GPs. Currently I am newly appointed to the board of the postgraduate GP training organisation in my state called GP Synergy.

And before medicine? .. I did various things which maybe helped form who I am today – worked in a bread shop, worked as a waitress on long distance rural trains, played a lot of tennis!

My involvement in WONCA.

My first WONCA meeting was in Dublin in 1998, where I represented New Zealand (not Australia) on the WONCA World Council. There are colleagues I met at that meeting who I am still close friends with today.

Since 2010, I have been the WONCA editor - that sounds like a long while, but still not as long as my predecessor Mark Rivo (USA), and I have decades more service in order to equal his predecessor David Game (another Australian).

I have been a member-at large on WONCA World’s Executive since 2013. I was made chair of the bylaws committee and after some hard work (secretly I enjoy it!) at the last World Council in Rio, we agreed on a simplification of our bylaws which makes them shorter - but there is still more work to do.

WONCA gives us all a great opportunity to meet colleagues from other countries, whether we do it in person at conferences, or electronically on Facebook or through the various WONCA working parties or special interest groups. Learning more about each other and working together to improve the place of family doctors throughout the world is not only a way that we can help bring “health to all”, but it’s personally very rewarding and enjoyable.

Passions in my work and outside work

In my work I have a special interest in women’s health, and I have worked over many years part time in breast clinics and also in a sexual assault crisis service. I enjoy geriatrics because I like interacting with our older generation and working with them for best outcomes.

Outside work, it’s important to me to relax by spending time doing yoga and meditation and dog walking. I draw (mostly life drawing) and have painted and done sculpture - most people don’t know that I have done a Fine Arts Diploma full time for two years.

I have to wonder... is doing WONCA News a hobby?