I got the idea in London in June 2019, the organisation was registered in February of 2020, and we had a van on the road in July of 2020, so it was one year from idea to conception. I put the vast majority of my personal money into it. I managed to get some help from some people who heard about the idea and wanted to support it in the early days. I leveraged all my contacts and everyone I knew. I think my young naivete helped a lot. I would walk into a law firm like Clayton Utz, which is the biggest law firm in Sydney, and I'd pitch them this idea.
I think being young but passionate and having a good pitch helped so I managed to get quite a lot of large corporates on board. I had some amazing mentors and supporters. One of them is Professor Ravinay Bhindi, who's the head of cardiology at Royal North Shore Hospital. When I was having doubts or wondering why I was doing this to myself, he would give me guidance or help motivate me. I also just really read a lot. I read all the RACGP documents on setting up a general practice and all the different clinical governance documents required, corporate governance, how to set up a charity. It was a labour of love, but it was very fortunate timing that I started in my last year of medical school when I had the time and committed myself to it then through all of internship.
It really is a team effort, a volunteer-run organisation. There are some amazing people who helped push it along. Every clinic has to have a GP, so they’re the core volunteer, but we have everyone: doctors, speech therapists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, pharmacists and non-medical volunteers.
We've been going out to four clinics and actively expanding so we have a clinic in Woolloomooloo, Parramatta in Manly and in Brookvale with the one van. We've seen hundreds of patients, most of whom haven't seen doctors in many years or have health issues that have gone neglected for years. We've picked up quite a lot of chronic health conditions like diabetes, chronic kidney disease and thyroid dysfunction. Quite literally, the service has saved people's lives both from medical issues but also mental health concerns. We've linked them in with other medical services and stakeholders to support them outside of our service. We're only there for three hours a week so collaboration is essential.
The sense of achievement for patients when they come into the van – they have an issue, we can do something about it here and now, they can leave better than when they came in – really resonates with them. We've helped a number of people – I could count them on one or two hands – back into society. We’ve got them temporary or permanent accommodation, helped them to get a job and then now they've broken the cycle. More than anything, that's provided hope, especially in a dark time.