A life devoted to making a difference
Dr Bronwyn Gould has received a UNSW Alumni Award for her work with women, children and vulnerable teenagers.
From running an inner city general practice to working with vulnerable teenagers and volunteering with the Guides Australia, GP Dr Bronwyn Gould’s career has made a significant difference to the health of NSW women and children across several generations. She has been honoured with a UNSW Alumni Award for her services to medicine and health.
Having graduated from UNSW Medicine in 1976, Dr Gould worked at Prince of Wales Hospital and then joined the paediatric training program at Sydney Children’s Hospital. It was the lack of childcare for her own baby that determined her career trajectory.
“I’d married a fellow doctor, we had a baby, and it transpired I couldn’t care for her well and successfully complete specialist training. Childcare was very different 36 years ago. So soon after, I established general practice in the basement of our home in Paddington which meant I could be the primary carer,” she says.
Thirty-six years later, and still practising out of the same basement surgery, Dr Gould is providing continuity of care to many of the same families.
She quickly developed an interest in children and families and throughout her career has focused on vulnerable children. She has regularly worked in the area of child protection, training for the then Department of Community Services (now FACS), as a Medical Officer in the Child Protection Unit at the then Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, and treating high need, high cost adolescents in the community. She established and ran a clinic for homeless and vulnerable women at the drop in centre, Lou’s Place in Darlinghurst, from 2000 to 2012.
Realising that these young people’s needs went beyond conventional medical services, she undertook a Masters of Psychological Medicine, researching the factors associated with resilience following adversity in childhood. This psychological training enabled her to better meet the needs of her vulnerable patients while they were waiting to see a mental health specialist.
“It’s always been my view that the children who need the best care often don’t have access even to adequate care,” Dr Gould says.
“It became obvious that a lot of what we were doing was really being social historians and documenting what was happening. I believed the only way to change things for children was to be more in a decision making and policy role - I wanted to turn the tide on what was happening to these kids.”
As a result, Dr Gould entered the policy arena, serving on the Child Protection Council of NSW and as a member of the NSW Child Death Review Team. She served as a member then the chair of the Australian Council for Children and Parenting (ACCAP) and has also served as Chair of NAPCAN Advisory Council. During her career she has also been a member of the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN), the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (ASPAC) and the Association of Children’s Welfare Agencies (ACWA).
She sees education as an important part of her role. She has been involved in training community services case workers, mentoring medical students – she was a preceptor for UNSW medical students and is now a senior lecturer at Notre Dame Medical School, working with first year students – and spent time educating the public through radio broadcasting (she was Dr Bron on ABC 702).
She is also a ‘serious girl guide’, having been a leader for 25 years and serving on the board of Guides Australia. In 1998 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for service to youth in NSW through Guides Australia and the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
However it is as a Paddington GP that she believes she has made the greatest impact.
“General practice is the heart of medicine. You can look after people as babies, you can work with little kids when they are sick, you can have the great fortune of diagnosing malignancies and help patients through the last parts of their lives as well. You are in a privileged position to grow alongside the family and make small differences over time,” she says.