I would have been eight when I decided I wanted to be a doctor. No one in my family had finished high school, let alone university, so I can’t say it came from that. Health always held a fascination for me. Whenever someone said that they were unwell, I wanted to know why they were unwell, how they got unwell and how to make them feel better. Even when I had to leave home and school at 16, I didn’t lose that dream. I worked wherever I could to support myself, doing mainly hospitality work, but also ceramic tiling, industrial cleaning, tobacco picking and lychee packing. When I went back to high school I was 23, and a single mum with a toddler and a six-month-old baby to look after. During my lunch breaks, I would use the cleaner’s room for expressing breastmilk and I’d do my assignments in my spare time, so that at the end of the school day I could spend time being a mum. Routine and discipline kept me going. I got accepted into a few medical programs and decided on Monash University’s and, in 2005, my medical education began. One of my pre-intern rotations was to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in 2009. I was there at the time of the Black Saturday bushfires and was involved in victim identification. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, later on post-traumatic stress disorder affected me greatly, leading to mental health issues. Now, I’m a GP in a country practice, and while I still see a psychiatrist regularly, I am in a better place. I am raising my two teenaged boys and know that I have to balance my work with time for myself and my passions. I am sharing my story because I’m passionate about mental health, and because my experiences might help someone else see there is no barrier to following your dreams.

Dr Tamara Ford
Bathurst, NSW