Dr Victoria Matheson (MBBS MPH FRACP FACEM) is one of the Gold Coast’s high achievers, a double medical specialist (Dual Emergency and Paediatric Emergency medicine and General Peadiatrican), Dr Matheson holds academic titles with both Bond University and The University of Queensland and is a member of the Paediatric Research in Emergency Departments International Collaborative (PREDICT) network. In 2015 she completed a Master of Public Health with a focus on childhood obesity. She is a keen runner and a mother of three children aged 1, 3 and 5.
Q. For most people becoming a medical specialist is an achievement of a lifetime, combining years of dedicated study and clinical expertise. You accomplished the rare achievement of two specialties before you were 36. How and why did you achieve it?
A. I started out doing Emergency Medicine training and I found I really loved the paediatric aspect. Then one of my rotations was a term of General Paediatrics and I just loved it. I was quite a way through my Emergency Medicine training when I decided to pursue Paediatrics as well. I sat the Paediatric exams as soon as I could and I was able to get through to the two specialties in nine years.
Q. How would you describe yourself as a child?
A. I grew up in the UK. I had a very different lifestyle compared to the outdoor lifestyle my children enjoy on the Gold Coast. I loved reading as a child and it is still a favorite pastime now.
Q. What made you decide to do medicine?
A. I had decided to do medicine from the youngest age. I’m not sure why, it was just always what I wanted to do. It actually caused some trouble when I went for interviews and they asked me why I wanted to do medicine. I didn’t have an answer lined up – I just thought it was meant to be!
Q. Have you ever regretted that decision?
A. When I got to Uni I really thrived. I met a lot of like-minded people and I was fascinated with medicine. But when I started work as a young doctor in the UK I came close to quitting. No one can prepare you for what it is like. Suddenly you have a huge responsibility dealing with people’s lives and emotions. There is no room for error and the system and the hours were exhausting.
Q. What changed your mind and made you persist?
A. A friend was traveling to Australia and I came along to do some electives. She was a surfer so we came to the Gold Coast, which I had never heard of before. At first I just couldn’t believe such a place could exist. From a medical perspective it was just what I wanted, high quality medicine and even the possibility of work life balance.
I had never experienced an outdoor lifestyle before and I couldn’t believe life could be so good. When we had time off we’d be out exploring and enjoying everything the Gold Coast had to offer. It felt very healthy and happy compared with the UK.
Q. Your husband Shane is currently studying for his second specialty (Dual Emergency and Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Intensive Care Medicine). How do you both manage such a busy household with three children aged five and under?
A. We are very supportive of each other and we both like challenges. We are both hands on parents and most of the time we are interchangeable. We can both cook (Shane is better!), manage the household and care for the children.
Some people ask how we can have a life, but we are not the type to sit still.
Shane and I are different in some ways but similar where it counts, like they way we raise our children.
We’ve become pretty flexible depending on the situation. We’ve both had time off to look after the children at different times.
Shane and I both find medicine absorbing and stimulating, and being at home with small children can be harder in many ways. Having said that the children bring us a huge amount of joy and they won’t be little forever so we try to make the most of each day. I think we work so well because we truly do understand how difficult both aspects of our life can be. Being a parent has been far and away the biggest challenge of my life.
Q. How does being a Paediatrician affect your parenting?
A. Having both parents as paediatricians makes some things much easier. We spent a lot less time sitting at GP surgeries with common paediatric issues, but the big ticket stuff around the emotional well being of your child and getting those things right is always a worry. I think my colleagues would all agree with that.
Q. How do you keep fit?
A. Scott (Dr. Blundell) and Annelise (Dr. Wan) are very fit and amazing runners. They dragged me along to compete in races through the Gold Coast Hinterland forests. I was not sporty as a child, but I did start running at Uni. It has been a huge challenge and I have come to love it. I’m not very fast but I am out there doing it, and it feels great.
Q. What book is currently beside your bed?
A. I still read constantly. I like fantasy; perhaps because work is so serious it is good to have an escape.
Every night we sit on the sofa with the children and read for half an hour before bed. It is such a joy to revisit our old favorites and explore new ones. Last night I was reading Matilda (Roald Dahl) to my five-year-old and we got to the section where Miss Honey reveals that the evil Miss Trunchbull is in fact her aunt.
Emily went really quiet, and as I tucked her into bed she finally said, “mum I can’t believe that just happened, my mind is blown!!!”