GP profile - Dr Aline Smith


4th July 2018
This month we profile Dr Aline Smith, a GP in the General Practice unit at Fairfield Hospital. 
Dr Smith loves treating patient with complex chronic health needs and likes to cook when she get the chance.
How long have you been practising in Fairfield and as a whole? 
I have been practising as a GP for 26 years, I started in 1992, but I have worked as a doctor for 30 years. I’ve been in Fairfield for 3 months so far and I love it. 
I work at the General Practice Unit in Fairfield Hospital for two- and-a-half days every week and I am so happy to be here. 
 
When did you decide you wanted to become a GP? 
I wanted to be a doctor since age 10. I was motivated and inspired by my older brother who is also a GP. I became very interested to train as General Practitioner after working in community paediatrics, I decided I want to do community work, but I wanted to see a wide range of people not just paediatrics patients. I wanted to work with the general public and that’s why I decided to become a GP.   
 
What are your passions within your role? Are you striving to achieve a certain goal within your practice and/or community? 
I am passionate about helping people who are vulnerable. There is a lot of need in the area. Working at the GP clinic in Fairfield Hospital allows me to see patients who can’t really afford health care. And being a totally bulk billed service is wonderful because it allows me to spend more time with my patients as this role is funded by the South Western Sydney Local Health District (LHD). 
As a staff specialist at the GP unit I have a clinical as well as an academic role. Part of this role is to look at how we can develop integration between primary care and tertiary care, e.g. trying to prevent people from going to a hospital emergency department when they don’t need to. Other areas involve looking at different models of care where we can integrate and collaborate between general practitioners, hospital specialists, and the outpatients’ clinic, basically designing services that are beneficial for the whole community. I would like to invest my time and skills into this area. One more thing I am passionate about is teaching future general practitioners and doctors, that’s also part of my role. 
In term of my goals in the community, I have a particular interest in treating people with complex health issues, not just a single disease; those who present to the GP with multiple health problems especially mental health and/or intellectual disabilities. 
I have a Master in Mental Health and I like to work with the vulnerable population who lack access to mental health services. I am also able, if required, to provide some expertise to other GPs who are interested to provide that type of care.
I hope to have this opportunity within the Fairfield area. I have heard a lot about Fairfield and South Western Sydney in general being an area of need, particularly in mental health, intellectual disability, refugee health, and people from CALD backgrounds. I am interested in the incredible diversity of the area.   
 
What has been the highlight of your career?
The highlight of my career is mainly helping patients. However, looking back at my career as a GP, a particular highlight was when I helped to set up the Eating Disorders (ED) Shared Care Project with specialist services at RPA. Back in the 90s, this was the second shared care project in central Sydney area, the first one being the antenatal shared care.
This project was set up to redesign the ED outpatient clinic so we could collaborate with GPs who had difficulty referring their patients. The clinic had a six-month waiting list for patients to be assessed by a specialist in the unit, so we developed training for GPs to upskill in eating disorders and created a collaboration project where patients received earlier access to these specialist services.    
I worked with many people on this project and this led to continued improvements in eating disorders care in the region. 
 
What do you like to do in your spare time? 
I love to cook when I get the chance. I also love to garden and like watching movies and I am especially addicted to TV science fiction adventure series currently.   
 
Any interesting stories you would like to share with us today? 
I am very keen on general practice and I am conscious about just how difficult it is for GPs to work in an environment without much support. One interesting fact is that we are now training more specialists than GPs; two-thirds of young doctors are now being trained in specialists programs however we need more GPs! Of course I am biased, but I really think we need stronger support for primary care.
It is only in General Practice where we can look at the person as a whole, not only consider patients as a heart or an eye or a limb! I love my specialists and I work with them every day but I think it comes back to the patient’s relationship with their GP and the GP knowing that person very well to provide the best care they need.

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