My radio career was sparked by my patients in general practice, twice. One time, a patient was setting up the now-iconic 3AW breakfast show, Lawyers, Guns, and Money. She needed a medical expert and asked whether I would do it. I said, “Will it make you less stressed?”, and she said it would, so I did. That was in 1990 and about two years later another patient needed a host for a show about sex on radio. She said, “You could do it, you’d be great!” I said, “But I don’t know anything about sex”, and she said, “Yes you do, you do my pap smears, and you ask me about my sex life”. So that led to a two-hour-long talk-back show called Pillowtalk. It aired live each Sunday from 10pm until midnight for six years and was syndicated around the country through the Austereo Radio Network to about 30 stations. I used the name ‘Dr Feelgood’. Nothing was taboo, people could call in about anything. But what set it apart was that there was no such thing as a silly question and no snigger factor. I feel very proud we were able to open so much debate and conversation in the area, and hopefully make it easier for people to talk to their doctors about sex matters. Along with television appearances, I am still working in radio. These days I am privileged to host a two-hour program called Talking Health on Sunday nights on 3AW, with complete editorial control. It’s an in-depth look at a medical topic, such as Parkinson’s disease or gut health. I arrange experts and we take listener calls about it. Menopause always gets the biggest responses, and surprisingly often from guys asking, “I don’t know how to help my partner get through this”. In 28 years of radio, I have only ever had to use the ‘dump’ button once, and that was because the caller was about to defame somebody. I’d like to see more GPs get involved in media and not just at the top of the AMA, but other interested GPs who deserve a wider audience. I also think it’s really important to have a life outside medicine. I am lucky enough to work part-time, and have just completed a Masters of Health and Medical Law at the University of Melbourne. I graduated with my daughter, a lawyer, who completed her Masters of Law. I have a big interest in the interface between health and law, and enjoy advocating for social justice issues. I’ve needed to see a couple of specialists myself, because I have diabetes. It’s a bit of a kick in the guts when you have to be a patient, but it’s still interesting, doctors as patients. It’s a whole new interest area.

Dr Sally Cockburn
Melbourne, VIC