Articles and Case Studies

Doctor, Dad and Author - Lloyd Johnson

13 Jun 2014

Lloyd Johnson graduated from the Griffith University Medical School in December 2013, with a Research Excellence Award. He is now a Registered Medical Officer at Ipswich Hospital (QLD), with a part-time academic position at the Queensland University of Technology conducting translational research into health problems and innovations that impact both humans and animals.

1. As a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?

I grew up in a remote part of Africa with a lot of wildlife and animals. My father was a physicist, my mother a biologist, and I always thought I would be an engineer.

2. When did you realise you wanted to become a doctor?

I've always been interested in many things and love to learn new things. The penny dropped around the age of 16 that a veterinary surgeon was the obvious career for me. I spent several years working internationally for a pharmaceutical company in research and development as a veterinarian, and then managed a private company focused on primary infrastructure and sustainable food sources for post-conflict and developing countries. Human medicine seemed to perfectly complement this along with my previous background in animal medicine.

3. What's a typical day in your life as a medical student?

My typical day in final year was getting up around 6.00am and helping get our three kids up and off to school; then commuting to the hospital for the usual longish day; and trying to get home in time to play with the kids, read with them, encourage them to practise their music, etc. Once were in bed by 8.00pm, I’d devote a couple of hours to management issues related to our consulting firm and communicate with the international partners. Hopefully from 10.00pm to midnight, I’d devote some time to study as necessary for the medical degree – then from midnight till about 2.00am, do some writing for the novel that was published at the end of my final year.

Weekends were a combination of family time, coaching my sons’ rugby teams, riding horses and working to pay the bills by doing overnight or weekend shifts as a locum veterinary surgeon.

4. What are the some of the highlights so far from your life as a medical student?

I’ve met some great people and had the luxury of being able to focus on learning for a second time in life after a gap of many years. I had the time to attend conferences as well as travel during university vacations or while on international business for the company I worked with.

5. Have you travelled locally or overseas on medical electives? If yes, what did you learn from those experiences?

I went to Oxford, UK for one elective and also had a fantastic local experience with both the Haematology and Oncology Clinic and the IVF/Gynaecology clinic at the Wesley hospital in Brisbane. I was fortunate to be placed under leading consultants who were not only incredibly good at what they do, but also really decent people. They made me feel like a valued colleague not only during work hours, but also extended invitations for evening meetings or to their homes. Another highlight was being invited to chair a session at a Congress in Amsterdam on Translational Medicine – examining the close linkage between human and veterinary innovation and the transfer of information between them: a field often called “One Health”.

6. What are your interests outside of work?

I enjoy writing and completed my first novel Spindrift – Swept from Zimbabwe in August 2013. I also write regularly on animal welfare issues and have been lucky enough to catch the attention of 60 Minutes, the 7.30 Report and also The Australian which featured a lengthy article on some of my experiences on livestock export ships to the Middle East and South-East Asia.

7. Tell us about the book that you’ve published.

Spindrift – Swept from Zimbabwe is written as a fast-paced novel, but based very closely on the truth of growing up in war-torn Africa. It was published in the UK in October 2013 towards the end of my final year, which fortuitously coincided with my medical elective placement in Oxford. So I was able to be present for the international book launch and signing. The hard and soft cover versions are now selling in 12 countries. The publisher has focused on the major international markets in Europe, North America and even South Africa, but not Australia. So it has been a bit slower in getting recognition here. However, at the end of last year, a Brisbane-based medical consultant who had read the book and who also grew up in Zimbabwe was kind enough to host a dinner to mark the launch which got things going. The e-version was launched on Amazon recently, so that should make it more accessible and save shipping costs for local readers.

8. How do you manage to fit in your writing and other interests with your studies?

It’s not always easy and clearly some things have to be prioritised. My father always used to say, “If you want to get something important done, ask a busy person – they are more likely to fit it in and less likely to make excuses.” The kids and family come first, income to support them has to follow, but that still leaves a lot of time before sleep becomes a necessity.

LloydJohnson _stretch

9. Do you have any words of advice for students starting their journey in medicine?

There is a lot of slack time at university and probably more opportunity to fit in extra-mural activities than any other time until retirement. It seems many get caught up in competing with peers rather than realising the medical course is just a short part of a long personal career journey. In this context, it’s worth focusing on your own goals and not be consumed by the narrow boundaries of the curriculum which are a small subset of wider individual objectives.

I would add not to get caught up in complaining about inevitable inefficiencies and deficiencies of current large cohort university teaching systems and try to avoid the current trend for seeking out the multitude of support systems offered by universities – these burn valuable time. If you can, focus on core requirements and develop independence and resilience as these will be highly relevant in the future.

10.  What’s your favourite philosophical quote?

“So much to do – so little time” by C.J Rhodes

11. What’s next for you, personally and professionally?

I love travel and adventure. I would like to find an opportunity to make more of an impact in the developing regions of the world. There are a multitude of massive yet solvable health problems, however money and expertise come from outside the regions that are worst affected: the paradox is that without local ownership these projects will not be sustainable. I’ve been blessed in having had a wonderful career as a veterinarian, and then as an entrepreneur which has had me bouncing out of bed each morning. I just hope medicine will provide the same challenges for learning, enthusiasm and to find small ways each day to contribute to the lives of others.

12. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I really hope to find the time to complete the sequel to Spindrift – Swept from Zimbabwe. The story of the millions of people dispossessed from their land and country as well as the genocide and massacres of the 1980s are known by remarkably few people – these are stories worth telling.

Spindrift Coverart_smallSPINDRIFT – Swept from Zimbabwe

by Lloyd Johnson

Excerpt from the book launch press release:
A story of humanity, resilience and courage against the backdrop of Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical regime, SPINDRIFT captures the grandeur and allure of Africa in stark contrast to the anarchy, warfare and tribal conflict that have ravaged Zimbabwe.

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