ON A rainy afternoon at the Collie River Valley Medical Centre (CRVMC), Dr Saumitra Seal sits in the chair he has used to diagnose thousands of medical problems since moving to Collie from Kalgoorlie eight years ago.
It is a bittersweet moment for the doctor, who recently moved to Perth to be closer to his wife and two sons.
He reflects on his life and what it had been like when he first walked through the doors of the CRVMC in 2005. Dr Seal admits he was nervous because he was “not sure at the time” that his Collie patients would like him.
It is difficult to imagine why somebody would not like the mild mannered doctor, but he was not sure what to expect.
Born and bred in a third world country, Bangladesh, meant that getting into medicine was always going to be difficult. It was fiercely competitive due to the large population.
“It was difficult to even be considered for study. You had to through all these processes,” Dr Seal said.
He completed a four year traineeship at Sylhet Medical College – renamed the Sylhet Osmani Medical College (SOMC) in 1986 – and started practicing medicine in 1990, when he was 19 years old.
Life could have been different for Dr Seal if he had his way as a teenager. He had not wanted to be a doctor. “I had an intention to be an architect,” Dr Seal said, but with a small smile that suggested he had been right to obey his parents wishes and become a doctor.
He started to like the general practice side of medicine once he left the stuffiness of academic study behind.
As he tackled a wide range of health problems, from illnesses to fractures, he discovered he genuinely enjoyed being “able to look at people’s problems and helping them.”
Becoming immersed in healing people, he moved to South Africa where he practiced for seven years.
He might not ever have moved to Collie if he had not attended the World Organisation of Family Doctors (WONCA) congress in Durban, during 2000.
Dr Seal was fascinated by one of the presentations given by a representative of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) on the Australian health care system.
Drawn to the idea of pursuing a career as a general practitioner, he took his wife and son on a week’s holiday to Melbourne in 2002.
Dr Seal and his family enjoyed the holiday, and when he was offered a job in Kalgoolie, he accepted it.
The extremities of South Africa and Kalgoorlie did not faze the doctor, and because of movies, books and television, Australian culture was exactly how he imagined it.
“My expectation was how it was,” Dr Seal said, though he was surprised at the country’s large amount of space, “especially in the middle”.
“I didn’t know there was such vast land,” Dr Seal said.
However, Dr Seal and his family left Kalfoorlie after a year, partly because of the isolation and the distance from friends in Perth.
Collie was an ideal alternative and, especially after his son was born in the area, the town became their home.
The family spent a lot of time enjoying barbeques in “the quietness and calmness” of the local parks whenever Dr Seal was not working.
Dr Seal also enjoyed sitting down in open spaces and feeling the gentle breeze.
After a year in the area, Dr Seal started practicing at the CRVMC.
As he looked around his old office, he reflected on “quite a large group of loyal patients.”
“They kept coming!” Dr Seal said.
He would miss them when he started working at Claremont Medical Centre in Perth.
Dr Seal reminded his patients that just because he was leaving, there was no excuse to stop taking regular medical check-ups.
Check-ups were important and could detect serious health problems before it was too late to do anything about it, Dr Seal said.
Dr Seal was unsure about his new job in Perth, because he had never practiced in big cities.
“I have always been a country practitioner,” Dr Seal said thoughtfully. “I will miss Collie, I think.”