Meet Port Hedland Flying Doctor Sanjeet Chana. After moving to the Pilbara from London late last year, he's been busy immersing himself in the community in his spare time. Now, he's off to the Kimberley to support the Gibb Challenge by serving as a volunteer medic.
When Dr Sanjeet Chana told his friends he was moving from London to the red dirt of the Pilbara to join the Royal Flying Doctor Service in 2018, his friends thought he was positively mad.
With six years of medical school and 10 years of clinical practice under his belt, Sanjeet successfully applied to join the RFDS. Posted to the Port Hedland base in September last year, Sanjeet and his partner were quick to call the Pilbara home.
In their spare time, Sanjeet and his partner enjoy giving back to the community, volunteering with animal adoption charity SAFE, with the local firefighting service and turtle monitoring.
So naturally, when an internal call-out was put to staff to support the Gibb Challenge, an annual major fundraiser event held in the Kimberley for the RFDS, Sanjeet and his partner were quick to put up their hand in support.
Sanjeet and his partner, who works as a local physiotherapist, decided volunteering as medics on the challenge was the next best thing.
The Gibb Challenge, which runs from May 19-23 this year, will see more than 250 participants tackle corrugated roads, dusty headwinds and treacherous river crossings from Derby to El Questro over five days to raise vital funds for the Flying Doctor.
“Though we’re ready and able to respond to any serious incidents, I suspect that most of the time we will be massaging legs and applying padding to bottoms after the long cycle rides on very bumpy roads,” Sanjeet said.
“As a Brit working in Australia for the first time, the Gibb River Road sits as a must-see, an iconic route in an amazing part of the country. I’m really looking forward to staying at cattle stations, visiting remote communities and meeting the people who live there.
“Volunteering is a great way to give something back and to feel part of the community that has been so welcoming and friendly since we came to Australia.
“Most of all, I hope that I gain a connection to the community and country as we take care of all who have given their time and effort to raise money for such a beloved cause.”
After working in a Central London hospital where he’d have to juggle up to 50 patients across the unit, ward and emergency department at a time, delivering medical care on board an RFDS aircraft is a stark change.
“Working in an RFDS aircraft, I’ve been amazed at how much we can accomplish as a team of one pilot, one nurse and one doctor to treat patients from some really remote locations who would otherwise have endured a much worse outcome,” he said.
“I get to travel all over the state, deliver clinics in rural towns with populations of around 100 people, fly to desert communities and treat people who otherwise would have no access to healthcare.
“The last big difference is that I now only have one or two patients at time, which is a nice change of pace. I get to focus all of my attention to drill down into each problem and to really get the best outcome for my patient.
“In the short seven months that I’ve worked for the RFDS, I’ve met some lifelong friends, made a difference in the lives of some really unwell patients, and have some really great stories to tell.”