Soldier's successful switch to medicine

AFTER 20 years as an army officer at home and overseas, Andrew Clarke is preparing for an entirely different life as a doctor at North West Regional Hospital.

Dr Clarke, 38, has just moved from Hobart to Burnie with his wife and five children to realise an ambition he once thought ``unreachable’’. 

This week he will be one of 11 interns from Tasmania, Canada and Malaysia visiting the wards of NWRH for the first time as qualified doctors.

While Dr Clarke admitted he was a bit nervous, he said five years of study at the University of Tasmania and his time in the army had prepared him well for the role.

Dr Clarke served in East Timor in 2000, also helping out at the Sydney Olympics that year, and did almost every job from army aviation to instructing at Duntroon.

But he said it was his time serving in Bougainville in 2002 that first sparked his ambition to become a doctor.

"My job over there was to destroy captured or surrendered munitions, so I always took a doctor with me," Dr Clarke said.

"And one of the most amazing things I saw when I was going to the village ... was seeing how the simplest interventions the doctor might do for these people - even to just say it was OK - was a huge relief to people that really had nothing.

"So the journey to medicine began then with an idea, and then over time it developed to the point where I thought, `well, I'm not getting any younger'."

Dr Clarke said he moved from Townsville to Hobart five years ago with his wife, Rebekah, and five children to begin studying medicine.

He said it had been challenging financially and academically, but his family had been a constant support.

"It was a good lesson for me and the kids in the family to show that you never give up, give it a crack, because you never know what might happen," Dr Clarke said.

"And my wife has been pretty amazing.

"She's been a good rudder for me, to keep me on an even keel, and a great friend who helps me through the bad times and celebrates the good times with me."

Dr Clarke said he hoped to become a rural general practitioner at the end of his medical training.

"I'd like to go where I'm needed," he said. "There's a big hole there, I think, and we need more people to put their hand up to ease the burden so the existing rural GPs don't burn out."

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