Physicianaries: Melanie Wright

This week's Physicianary is Melanie Wright.

I am always fascinated by Doctors that have "other jobs", but not necessarily in the corporate or entrepreneurial world.

There are a healthy amount of duel Doctor-Athletes in Australia, in reality given this country's sporting blood it should not be a surprise.

Meet the future Dr Melanie Wright. Mel is mum of two, Medical Student and Olympic Gold Medalist. YES that's right, TWO-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST!

The good news is she is also humble, funny and kind.

What specialty in Medicine will you choose when ready?

I’m still on the fence about what specialty I’d like to do. So far I’ve loved Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Emergency. I haven’t experienced a lot of general practice yet but it is something that also appeals to me. I seem to be drawn to a bit of variety.

Name the Doctor that has been most inspiring or had the most impact on your career so far?

I can actually credit the same person for having a big impact on both my medical and sporting pursuits. Dr June Cavanagh was my doctor as a child. She was so kind and thorough and fuelled my desire to one day become a doctor. During a period of time in my swimming I got really run down and just couldn’t train. After seeing lots of doctors where I was living at the time and lots of tests I had no answers. I then went back to Dr June who pieced the puzzle together and gave me an extra 6 years in the sport which included my career highlights.

Devastatingly she died in a plane crash in 2009 while raising money for disadvantaged communities. I hope to one day be the kind of doctor she was.

Name your favourite fictional Doctor?

It would probably be Dr Cameron from House. Her curiosity about medicine and diagnostic abilities mixed with empathy is what I hope all doctors would aspire to...(also being a specialist physician, surgeon, radiologist and pathologist is quite impressive!).

If there was on superpower you think a Doctor needed the most right now, what would it be?

X-ray vision. Imagine being able to see the pathology at the bedside. Although I’m not sure radiologists would agree!

Which is harder, being an athlete or a Doctor-to-be?

Both are hard in their own way but also require a lot of the same traits. Both require dedication, resilience, determination and sacrifice. Both are long term projects that require constant reassessment and a desire for personal improvement.

Being an athlete is so physically demanding and I spent my days purposely trying to hurt my body to get better. Then years of hard work can come down to a fingernail (I came fourth in the London Olympics by 0.03 and 0.06 off a silver medal - I can’t even blink that fast). The reward for effort is fleeting and a long way down the road with no guarantees.

Medicine is more mentally demanding and the only part that hurts my body is the lack of sleep (daily naps being one of the perks of athlete life!). However, in medicine the stakes a higher. As an athlete, if I had a bad swim or missed an Olympic medal, so what!? Personal disappointment yes, but not earth shattering. Whereas in medicine decisions made or personal interactions with patients and their families can have massive life long impacts. It literally can be life changing.

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