When Dr Fraser Hodgson's Te Awamutu practice decided one of the partners needed to offer specialisation in travel medicine, he volunteered for the job. The general practitioner hadn't undertaken any formal study since completing his Fellowship in General Practice in 1995, and he decided he was up for the challenge.
Since that fateful decision, Dr Hodgson went on to complete – part-time via Otago's distance learning programme – a Postgraduate Diploma in Primary Healthcare with Distinction. The qualification helped him secure a part-time teaching position with the University of Auckland, as well as entry into a Masters degree.
Back in 2005, however, Fraser couldn't have foreseen where his new studies would take him. His undergraduate studies had happened in a pre-personal computer era, so first he had to come to grips with e-journals and Microsoft Word.
Such technical challenges were successfully overcome with the help of his department at the Wellington School of Medicine, and Fraser enjoyed his initial foray into distance learning – a paper in Wilderness Medicine – so much that he persisted with one paper each year. Papers in Travel Medicine, Contemporary Primary Healthcare and Maori Health followed.
Fraser found that he enjoyed the stimulation of study again and recommends distance learning for healthcare professionals as a way of ongoing professional development and upskilling in new areas.
“You do learn heaps, there's no question,” he says, “and it does give you confidence. You become a mini-expert in your practice in your field.”
Fraser now handles all the travel-related consultations in his practice – as well as knowing how to make a stretcher out of materials you'd find in a tramping backpack!
“It was certainly challenging academically but it was a good learning curve mixed with lots of fun and laughter. You have residential weekends – two or three with each paper – so you get to meet other people as well.”
With the Diploma under his belt, Fraser went on to apply for and gain a position teaching General Practice at the University of Auckland's clinical school in Hamilton. He is now completing a Masters degree – all thanks to his 'dipping his toe in the water' of distance learning several years ago.
Website: Distance Learning