Connected Conversations | George Dounas

Living and working in the Barossa Valley has had several unexpected positives for fifth year medical student, George Dounas. From discovering a new love of Aussie rules to learning family recipes from his yiayia to mastering virtual consultations – it has been a big year of finding new independence for George. We chatted to him one sunny day in Tanunda in our latest edition of Connected Conversations.

George Dounas

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hey! My name is George and I’m in my fifth year of medicine. I’m currently on placement in the Barossa Valley. In my photo, I’m standing out front of the Tanunda Medical Centre and Hospital where I am working on placement. Here, medical students get involved with general practice consulting and being on-call for after-hours appointments. We also get to work alongside the travelling consultants of surgery and specialists, in surrounding regional centres like Angaston.

For me, fifth year has had a strong emphasis on independence—in professional practice as well as my personal life. In terms of clinical accountability, it’s included increased decision-making and preparation for residency beyond medical school. Personally, it’s been about moving out of home with my closest friends and learning to cook something other than scrambled eggs! As a medical student group, we play social netball and football. I made the bold transition from soccer to country AFL this year…learning that my skill set is best suited to a role on the bench! I have made great friendships with club management and the players and I am proud to have helped build a safe concussion protocol for the club. Team dinners are the best! Without doubt, sport has made Tanunda feel like my second home. It’s been fantastic how the locals have really welcomed all the students to the area.

I’ve also kept in touch with all things ‘Adelaide’ through the Adelaide University Surgical Society (AUSS). I took a step back from the role of Chairperson last year to work with the executive team in a smaller role. I have also been making time for phone calls to friends on placement in Adelaide and across the state and developing my skills towards a surgical career. Importantly, I’ve found the support of family nearby in Adelaide heartening and late-night calls to my yiayia for recipes literally lifesaving. Safe to say, it’s been a year of immersion, growth, and thankfully, laughter.

What aspects of studying and learning virtually did you enjoy the most?

The biggest change has been the introduction of virtual consultations, which have been relatively straight forward and make sense for some situations, however there’s an element of personability and warmth you can only get face-to-face. I’ve loved the availability of online information and resources, which permit playback and collaboration on a wider scale too, but it’s a trade-off to missing out on hands-on skills in theatre and having the opportunity to chat with peers. It’s nice that a balance is slowly being restored and it’s great to see handshakes are becoming less awkward!

Is there anything from the past few months you would like to see implemented on a permanent basis?

It’s been great to pick up the phone and give mates a ring rather than texting, I’m hoping that’s here to stay! Having been saturated with news and digital entertainment, it’s also been a great lesson in purposefully putting down the phone, getting away from the world and enjoying some downtime with housemates, or making progress on neglected long-term projects, like re-learning to play the drums, running and fixing up the car.

All things considered; what good things have you discovered or learned during this time?

The way in which the medical and Australian communities have united shows me the power of large-scale collaboration. I have seen how small conversations between younger and older Australians created an understanding of the problems each of those groups have been facing during this time. I have seen people looking out for each other’s health and safety, which culminated in a strong sense of togetherness and accountability. This time has also taught me to value things like time at the pub with mates having a laugh, chats with yiayia over the phone with a sketo (Greek coffee) hearing about her life in the 1950s and spending time driving through the hills with dad learning about cars.

Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.

Daytime television.

Awkward greetings and the ‘footshake’.

This error message when the WiFi drops out: ‘Your connection is unstable. Attempting to reconnect…’

And the three things you won’t forget…

How good card games are!

Mum’s emergency food packages!

Footy training when it’s 4 degrees…

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