Ochre Doctor Series: Beyond The Practice
We’ve recently discovered that many of our Ochre doctors have a flair for a myriad of pursuits and hobbies that extend beyond the practice of medicine. In our new Ochre Doctor Series: Beyond the Practice, we reveal the talents behind our growing workforce of healthcare professionals. To kick it off, we spoke to the charismatic author, cartoonist, sand artist and general practitioner at Ochre Health Kippax Clinic Dr Abraham Thomas (MBBS) Dip (Child Health), FRACGP.
Dr Thomas completed his medical degree at Trivandrum Medical College in Kerala, India in 2002 before working as a Medical Officer in India and the UK. He moved to Australia in 2007 and worked in the Accident and Emergency Unit at the Angliss Hospital in Victoria.
In 2009, Dr Thomas relocated to Canberra, completing his Medical Resident years at The Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital. He then completed his GP Fellowship Training with the Royal College of General Practitioners.
What inspired you to study medicine, become a GP & move to Australia?
I always loved working with people and had empathy for people who are suffering especially when they are struggling with health needs. I loved the opportunity at Medical School to get to know how the human body works and what can go wrong when our body has a breakdown. A good understanding of human anatomy and medical conditions has helped me with my children's books. I later moved to Australia and joined the AGPT Program (Australian General Practice Training Program) and did the GP Fellowship training and settled in Canberra, Australia. Working in India, UK, Melbourne, Canberra, and Rural NSW all helped me in my current avatar as a GP in the ACT.
When did you discover you had a talent for writing and drawing?
When I was at Medical School, I would draw cartoons for fun especially to make Medical presentations interesting. I later started to do freelance cartooning and went on to publish 100 political cartoons in the Indian Express daily while I was at Medical School. I always loved breaking down complex information and loading them into simple stories to make it interesting for everyone around.
Who influenced you and who are your favourite authors and cartoonists?
I grew up reading Asterix and Obleix comics and was heavily inspired by the cartooning style of Albert Uderzo who did the cartoons for Astrerix. I was always a MAD fan of MAD magazine cartoons and the talented cartoonist Sergio Aragones from MAD magazine.
How did you become a published Author?
I have been writing stories and drawing cartoons for different publications for the past 20 years. My first children's book was published last year in the ACT. It was titled 'No: 1 with Type 1'. It is the story of Cindy the bunny with Type 1 diabetes. I discuss diabetes diagnosis, continuous glucose monitoring and insulin pump in this story. It is available at the local book stores in Canberra, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Booktopia, Nile and multiple online platforms.
How does the knowledge of medicine assist you with your kids' book series?
All my children's books of the current series are based on Medical conditions. It is named 'Kids Medical series' and is pitched for kids aged 5-10 years old. It discusses medical conditions like food allergy, anaphylaxis, anxiety, depression, diabetes, and asthma. The background medical information and work experience as a GP is the backbone of all my books as I try to simplify the complex medical information into simple animal stories.
How many books are in your series and do you have a favourite?
I have 10 books in this 'Kids Medical Series'. My second book 'My baby sister in Mummy's tummy' is my favourite as I spent a lot of time trying to work out how to explain conception to kids for this book and it was well-received.
You deal with a lot of topics in your book. What process do you go through to research each one?
I spent a lot of time researching each medical topic to update myself on the latest information. The hardest part is to tease out only the essential information that the kids need to know and to put it into a story. I do multiple drafts of the story and I have a writers group who critique the content before I proceed to illustrations. I love to draw Australian animals and try to draw a different one as the title character in each of my books. Koala is my favourite animal and you can see this national icon in most of my stories.
Do you have any books in the pipeline?
I am currently developing 2 new books on Asthma and Fractures; ‘Koala with Asthma', and 'Bilby broke his bone'.
You are also a sand animator and perform live. What does this entail?
This is also an effective way of telling a story through drawing on sand over a lightbox & projecting it live on screen. I have performed it on multiple stages in Sydney and Canberra. It is a good tool for kids to learn how to draw and tell a story. I have held numerous sand animation training sessions for kids at Canberra Girls Grammar School in the last 2 years. I don't do as many live performances these days due to COVID restriction & book writing commitments.
You joined Ochre Health Kippax in 2018. Describe why you like working there?
I started at Ochre Kippax from Day 1 when they opened the Surgery in 2018. It is a good team and everyone has the freedom and space to practice medicine to their best and full potential.
How does working with Team Ochre differ from other practices you have worked at?
My wife Chinchu and I have been working at Ochre Kippax since the first day since they opened in 2018. There is a good work-life balance and the team is flexible to accommodate doctors who have young families and multiple commitments.
What advice do you give to Medical students considering the General Practice pathway?
General Practice will offer an excellent work-life balance especially for individuals with hobbies and interests outside Medicine.
How important is it for doctors to have passions outside General Practice?
Clinical Medicine is a challenging career as you can tend to overwork and suffer burnout. It will be invaluable to have a hobby or passion outside Medicine as it helps you to destress and unwind. I would encourage everyone to pursue their hobbies outside work hours as it helps you to strike a perfect work-life balance.
Thank you so much for your time Dr Thomas. It’s been wonderful to chat with you and to meet the man behind Cindy the Bunny, The Big Strong Elephant, and The Emu with the Dark Cloud over his head.
If you’d like to take a closer look at Dr Thomas’s Medical books for children, head to his Amazon author page: