A Rural Generalist With An Adventurist Spirit

By , Melinda McCarthy published on 22/06/2022 Rural Generalism, Locum work,

The highlight of Ochre Recruitment's loyalty program is the Golden Gratitude Award, where each quarter our consultants nominate one outstanding Ochre GP. Not only do we celebrate and reward their remarkable achievements, but we also donate $1,000 to a deserving individual or charity of their choice.

This quarter we are delighted to celebrate Dr. David Gaskell, a well-travelled Rural Generalist who has had an illustrious career working all over the globe, and who is now working with Ochre Health in practices across Tasmania and Western NSW. He is donating his $1,000 to his nephew, who is a medical student at Notre Dame University Sydney, in his third year.

Firstly congratulations on winning our latest Golden Gratitude Award and for the remarkable work you're doing in Western NSW for Ochre Health. Tell us a bit about where you grew up, what inspired you to focus on rural generalist work, and your remarkable career to date?

I grew up in the fine countryside near Crieff, a market town on the edge of the Scottish Highlands.  

After graduating in medicine from Edinburgh University in 1988, I gained a place on the Grampian Vocational Training Scheme and moved to Aberdeen, spending formative years there working in core specialties and family practice.  I am by nature a generalist in most things, also an opportunist with an adventurist spirit, so I was always going to be a Rural Generalist – no medical specialty is more interesting, challenging, or rewarding.

In my early career, I ventured beyond Scotland to work in  New Zealand, India and Zambia. For 10 years when my children were growing up, I joined a family practice on the Black Isle, near Inverness. In later years, I seized the chance of working as a diplomat for the UK Foreign Service.  As Regional Medical Adviser for Asia, based in Dhaka, my job was to advise on health matters and care for patients across 20 countries whilst overseeing the management of medical centres in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. After 7 exciting years, with a desire for fresh adventure in a new land, I accepted a job with WACHS as Regional Medical Director-Kimberley based in Broome. Australia was already in my blood. My paternal grandfather, an Aussie who fought at Gallipoli, was awarded the Military Cross for his valor. For 6 wonderful years, I led and advised clinical teams across 7 sites in the Kimberley, caring for patients as both clinical lead and GP. After 15 years in executive leadership, aware of the health needs across remote rural Australia, with passion to return to frontline care for some of our needier communities, I accepted a job offer in Exmouth as DMO GP ED. With family and ageing parents spread across the globe, it became apparent that working freelance work would better meet our needs. As Covid hit, we relocated to our NSW home and chose to work with Ochre.

You’ve essentially been working as a full-time locum with Ochre for nearly 2 years in Tasmania and New South Wales. What do you most like about working with these teams?

I share Ochre’s professional ethos and approach to healthcare. Its teams are friendly, patient-centered, and welcoming. The example is set by Ochre’s executive leadership and it resonates with me.

And tell us a little bit about working in Collarenabri. What is it about this small community that keeps you coming back?

It was apparent that there was a need in this mostly Aboriginal community for medical leadership on the ground and some continuity of care and so I have stayed awhile amongst these good country folk.

Where is your favourite place to locum and why?

Frankly, a good locum doctor will only return to places where they are welcomed, trusted, and know they can contribute. For me, I try to contribute by leading quietly, calmly, and respectfully from the front. I have enjoyed thoroughly working in St Helens, King Island, and across Western NSW where teams and systems function well.

What locum locations are on your bucket list and why?

A return to Tassie certainly, especially King & Flinders Islands!

What advice would you give to GPs considering a locum contract in rural and regional areas?

Working in rural and regional areas exposes doctors to fascinating medicine and patients often unseen in Metros. Reliance on good diagnostics such as use of POCUS and proficiency with procedures go with the needs of the job. Essential skills - sound clinical experience, experience in leading/managing teams, ability to work alone, patience, flexibility, respect for and adherence to Ochre’s core values and code of conduct. Helpful also to know thyself, be self-contained, be content in spirit, being prepared to go the extra mile, and have stability in your personal life.

Furthermore, what advice would you give to medical students contemplating general practice or generalist pathway over a medical specialisation. How would you encourage them consider the generalist pathway?

The curious and keen-minded student interested in life in all its fullness will need to make choices which allow for broad interests and scope career-long. There is far more country than city. Generalism is a broader horizon leading to many destinations in time and place. Put them together and the doctor has ahead of him or her an exciting career limited only by the risks taken and choices made. Such has been my experience. I am as interested now in my medical service as I was when I went to medical school almost 40 years ago. It is all too easy as a specialist to get boxed in and bored.

Calum McInnes (right) Medical Student & Volunteer Fireman

Calum receiving his stethoscope from Para Consultant Scott Rogers

You’ve nominated your nephew Calum to receive the $1,000 donation. Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose him and how he will benefit?

Calum McInnes is the older son of Loraine, my younger sister who lives with her family in Auckland. He has all the attributes I seek in a country doctor: conscientiousness, enthusiasm, optimism, dedication, orientation to serving others, a keen wit, patience and compassion. If he so chooses to enter this area of medicine, he would make an excellent Rural Generalist in whom I would have faith as his patient. Calum is a post-graduate, living alone in Sydney away from his family in New Zealand. Ochre’s generous token will contribute to his studies and cost of living in these challenging times.


Thank you so much for sharing your interesting story, David. You do an amazing job for the communities you work in and we are honoured to have you on our team. Your value for human life and support and care for all people living in rural communities is very heartening.

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