Doctor who thrives on the edge

HE’S a Cambridge-educated doctor who could probably take his pick of top medical jobs anywhere in the world, but Dr Tuck Meng Soo chooses to spend his days working with Canberra’s disadvantaged minorities.

“Medicine is a helping profession and I think doctors who are working just for the financial rewards eventually find it a bit unfulfilling,” he says.

His special interest in helping people on the “edges of society” sees him treat Canberra’s refugees, gay, lesbian and transgender people, those with drug and alcohol dependency and HIV and AIDS sufferers.

Born in Malaysia, his parents encouraged him to apply for a scholarship to Oakham public school in England and after that he attended Cambridge University.

“In Malaysia, a lot of Chinese parents send their children abroad to study… (but) I certainly wasn’t expecting to go to Cambridge initially,” he says.

He studied medicine at Cambridge and then at Kings’ College Hospital, London.

He migrated to Australia in 1989 with his parents and brother who settled in Sydney. Due to being internationally trained, Dr Soo wasn’t able to practice in NSW, but was welcomed to the ACT, where he started working at the hospital. In 1996, he started as a GP at Civic’s Interchange General Practice where he worked with its founder, the late Dr Peter Rowland, a pioneer in the treatment of AIDS and his career was undoubtedly shaped by his mentorship.

“As an outwardly gay man in the 1980s, he felt that there was still a lot of gay people who didn’t feel comfortable about disclosing their sexuality to their GP, so he started a clinic where gay and lesbian people could attend and know that they could get non-discriminatory medical care,” Dr Soo says.

“I think he then thought there were other disadvantaged minorities that also have problems getting medical care, so we started seeing all the odds and sods in Canberra.”

By the time Dr Soo joined the clinic, its doctors were treating sex workers for regular check-ups (“in the days when you actually needed a certificate from a doctor to say that you were clean and could be a sex-worker”), gays, lesbians, transgenders, people with drug and alcohol problems and refugees.

Dr Soo became a partner in the practice six months after joining and in 2002 became its principal.

He says the years of working at the practice have helped shape his empathy for the underdog.

Dr Soo and some of the team from the Interchange General Practice, have just opened the Airport General Practice at Majura Park. Dr Soo will work at the new practice initially to make sure it is running smoothly, but will continue to see his patients at the Interchange General Practice.

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One Response to “Doctor who thrives on the edge”

  1. Carey Arber
    March 20, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Thanks for this interesting article, Libby. I particularly appreciate Dr Soo’s viewpoint where he says… “Medicine is a helping profession and I think doctors who are working just for the financial rewards eventually find it a bit unfulfilling”.

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