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Juggling medicine and motherhood

Dr Rachel Chan with her daughter Alexandra.

It is possible to pursue a career in medicine and be a Mum – just ask Peninsula Health Hospital Medical Officer Dr Rachel Chan.

Six years ago both of Dr Chan’s dreams came true – she was accepted to study medicine and found out she was pregnant.

 “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor,” says Dr Chan, who is originally from Singapore.

We were told by two different gynaecologists we couldn’t have a child without the highest form of IVF so I decided to pursue my dream of medicine instead.”

“The day I got my letter of offer from Monash I found out I was pregnant.”

Dr Chan deferred medicine for a year and gave birth to her daughter Alexandra.

“At six months old she was a really good baby so I decided to continue with the dream and started medicine,” says Dr Chan.

Fast forward to 2018 and Dr Chan has just completed her intern year at Peninsula Health and is now a Hospital Medical Officer, currently working at Rosebud Hospital.

Though she was always interested in medicine, Dr Chan spent a decade of her career focused on one particular area of the body – teeth.

“I was a dentist for 10 years before I started medicine, working in country NSW towns Cowra and Bathurst and also Singapore.”

“But I’d always really wanted to do medicine so I decided to pursue it and it’s been very rewarding.”

“When I finished school in Singapore in the late 90’s women weren’t encouraged to study medicine. It is different now though 20 years later and I’m grateful for the support Australia provides for women to complete further education.”

It’s International Women’s Day this week and Dr Chan has some advice to other women wanting to pursue a career in medicine and have a family.

“There is a lot of discussion about when is a good time to have a child – there is no good time,” says Dr Chan.

“What does help is having a good village behind you of friends and family. It can be virtual support as well from forums where other Mums give many good tips on topics like how to meal prep quickly to help you get organised.”

Having a mentor or role model to look up to is also important.

“It’s good to have good role models as well and a good mentor. It’s great that Peninsula Health tries to foster a mentorship program with someone during the year. I found it very helpful and I hope to be able to encourage and mentor others in the future.”

This year Dr Chan will complete rotations working in Rosebud ED, general medicine, Frankston ED and the Intensive Care Unit.

“While the long hours and shift work that come with working in the ED may be daunting to some, there are also positives as it means you get three days off.”

“On those days I can be the stay home mum and do the drop off and pick up and spend time with my daughter after school.”

Dr Chan hopes by sharing her story she will encourage others to follow their dreams and pursue a career in medicine.

Women in medicine

  • 41% of doctors at Peninsula Health identify as female.
  • The theme of International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Jessica Mills
JMills@phcn.vic.gov.au