While working in prisons and marginalised communities, I try to focus on what practical things I can do to improve people’s lives. I have always had a strong belief that healthcare should be accessible to all and quality primary care is a great way of overcoming social inequality. When I started out, I really wanted to work in Aboriginal health but I worried that, not being Aboriginal, I wouldn’t have a lot to offer. So I began my training in normal practice, until one day I read an article in Australian Doctor about a GP who was working in Redfern Aboriginal Medical Service. I was so inspired that I rang up to ask if there were vacancies. They directed me to Western Sydney, where I ended up working in the Aboriginal Medical Service for many years. I also became interested at that early stage in working with people who had been involved in the criminal justice system. Four years later, I walked into a prison for the first time. People worry about that, but security there isn’t an issue. Instead, what I really struggled with initially was recognising the sad realities that many women in prison face. But prison healthcare is incredibly satisfying. The work is challenging and you can make a difference. You really do feel valued by the people you treat in prisons. They want the healthcare you are offering and being there through the long haul for them is something I find very satisfying.

Dr Penny Abbott
Sydney, NSW