Interview with Dr. Sue Jacobs
Tell us about yourself.
I started studying medicine at the University of Sydney in 1977 and had an amazing pathway to becoming a consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) in 1995,
I initially saw myself working in the developing world having been inspired by a doctor who had travelled in Nepal to help children in remote villages, however as my degree progressed I became increasingly interested in the health experience of non-English speaking migrants’ health experience in Australia.
This in turn led to an interest in learning Italian so I took time out of my medicine degree to live in Italy and study for a degree in Behavioural Science. My research examined experiences of pregnancy and expectations of childbirth in Italo Australian and Anglo Australian women, to enhance understanding cultural practices from different communities and possible gaps in care.
I returned to undergraduate medicine in 1984 and while I maintained an interest in migrant women’s health, I also became increasingly interested in Aboriginal health, culture, history and health service delivery.
After finishing undergraduate Medicine and Surgery and junior doctor years I became an Obstetrics and Gynaecology registrar at Westmead Hospital in 1988 with secondments to Nepean and Blacktown Hospitals over the next 4 years. In a liaison capacity, I also participated in the shared care arrangements with the hospitals and the Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) in Mount Druitt.
Once I became a consultant in 1995, I ran a weekly outreach clinics at the AMS in Redfern aiming to provide accessible, affordable, comprehensive and culturally appropriate care with smooth continuity of gynaecological care to RPAH.
Dr. Sue Jacobs after a caesarean operation.
Any highlights in your career you’d like to mention?
Working with Aboriginal women as patients and colleagues was a highlight and privilege in my career. I hopefully helped lots of individual Aboriginal women both at the AMS Redfern and at RPA Women and Babies, over the 25 years of continuous service.
I was very proud to receive the RANZCOG Excellence in Women’s Health Award in 2020
Tell us about your work training Aboriginal health workers / midwives?
I really enjoy working with midwives; we learn from each other. I believe that working in an environment with mutual respect promotes best experiences and outcomes for women.
I likewise enjoyed working closely with an Aboriginal Health Worker at AMS Redfern. Her presence was very reassuring for women. Together we’d ensure the woman being cared for felt comfortable, clarifying information and answering any questions.
I have been involved in teaching medical students and junior doctors. I often encouraged them to get involved in Aboriginal women’s health and many accompanied me to the Women’s clinic at the AMS Redfern.
What attracted you to joining the board of the AMF?
I am passionate about women’s health. Realising discrepancies in gynaecological and maternity outcomes for Aboriginal and non Aboriginal women in Australia has driven my career. In retirement and as I learn more about the gaps in maternity and newborn care in Sierra Leone, I feel excited to contribute to AMF in a clinical advisory capacity and eventually in strategy as a board member.
Dr. Sue Jacobs (centre) at the recent AMF Walking Challenge.
What are your initial impressions of the situation in Sierra Leone?
Reading Aminata’s book and doing some research, I realise that Sierra Leone has one of the world’s poorest outcomes for mothers and babies. Mortality rates are staggering and therefore there is much opportunity for improvement.
I am reassured that AMF has strong connections with local organisations such as the Aberdeen Women’s Centre in Freetown and the Mansaray Foundation which is starting to develop programs in rural areas. I am keen to help the AMF team develop ideas and frameworks to improve maternity and neonatal care to prevent high morbidity and mortality rates.
I am very interested in Sierra Leone’s people, history and geography. I look forward to meeting many wonderful people from Sierra Leone over the coming years..