Working to secure equality in health care
Knowing from an early age that she wanted to work in medicine, Maddy Ward will become the first doctor to complete a Victorian rural-based AGES fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. And along the way has used the example set by her family and mentors in helping others as a platform for forging her own medical journey.
Dr Russell Dalton Director of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Ballarat with Dr Madeleine Ward
In her professional life as a rural-based medico, Dr Maddy Ward welcomes every opportunity, and continually asks herself the same searching question: “What learning is here for me?”
Dr Ward is country through and through. Not only is she an alumni of the University of Melbourne’s Rural Clinical School in Ballarat, she grew up in regional Victoria, and has lived in Drouin, Warragal, Chiltern, Ballarat and Bendigo – to name just some of the country towns she’s called home.
In the early years of her medical career, Dr Ward worked in aged care and, at that point, thought she’d follow the path to specialising in palliative care.
But now, living and working on the Surf Coast, and with young children of her own, Dr Ward has changed direction, making Obstetrics and Gynaecology her area of specialty and using this as an avenue to achieving equality in the health system across city and rural settings.
“Obstetrics and Gynaecology is somewhat different from other specialties as you are privileged to look after people through their whole life journey,” says Dr Ward.
During the six-year program offered by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), Dr Ward has again worked in hospitals across regional Victoria in Ballarat, Bendigo and Warragul, while her current role sees her moving between Ballarat, the Surf Coast and centres in Kyneton, Maryborough and Ararat.
Now undertaking her advanced RANZCOG training with Obstetrics & Gynaecology Ballarat (OGB), Dr Ward will be one of few people in Australia to also be awarded the Australasian Gynaecological Endoscopy and Surgery (AGES) fellowship. This will accredit Dr Ward with skills in minimally invasive surgery to enable her to provide fertility treatment, and advanced laparoscopic and reconstructive pelvic floor surgery.
Dr Ward describes her work as an intimate and connected form of medicine and attributes her success in being the first doctor to attain the pretigious rural-based fellowship with OGB to the encouragement and support she received, and continues to receive, from her professional mentors.
“Mentors are crucial to career development and I still engage with them,” says Dr Ward, “using their guidance and encouragement to continue the legacy of giving to others”.
“As part of a team, I have enjoyed great generosity from my professional colleagues, and have come to understand the importance of multi-disciplinary teamwork.
“Especially in emergency situations, when things don’t go right, you really need to have everyone working together.”
On a personal note, Maddy also acknowledges the sacrifices of her own family in helping her to realise her dream, especially her partner who studied to be a special needs teacher while being the main caregiver for their children. As a family unit, they have relocated 12 times.
Dr Ward believes that women are entitled to optimal birthing experience and treatments close to home, wherever that may be, and believes that being based in rural and regional settings should not be a barrier to providing excellent care.
“I am dedicated to providing a high standard of compassionate women-centred care,” says Dr Ward, “and have undertaken a number of research programs aimed at improving awareness and access to services for women and their families living in regional Victoria.”
In the course of her training, Dr Ward observed that as consultants completed their training programs, many reconsidered their positions and remained in rural areas due to supportive mentors and innovations in training. Her current training provider, OGB, has supported 11 out of 14 consultants to remain in the country.
“The pandemic saw an influx of people moving to the country and seeking community,” Dr Ward says, “and, as such, medical services need to respond and be there for their communities.
“I would advise any young doctor starting out to go rural, embrace the learning opportunities offered, and develop strong working relationships.”