We caught up with Dr. Michael Tedeschi (GP) and Stefanie Lekkas (Accredited Practicing Dietitian) to find out more about their roles at the National Health Co-op at Kambri …
If you think Dr. Michael Tedeschi has a familiar face, it’s probably because he’s been a GP at the Australian National University for almost a quarter of a century! He took some time out to fill us in on his very busy schedule …
How long have you been a GP?
I’ve been a GP on the Australian National University campus for 24 years, working under the banner of the National Health Co-op since 2018. I’ve been looking after some patients for 20+ years!
I’m also specialist physician at Canberra Hospital – I’ve been there for 41 years. I’m a specialist half my life and a GP half my life!
Why did you get into this field of medicine?
I basically fell into it by accident! I was a lecturer in general practice under the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and doing a little bit of general practice. The GP who was running the ANU health service is a friend of mine, and he rang me in desperation one day because some of his GPs were sick, one had resigned and one was away. He was on his own and he wasn’t coping. He said, “Would you come and work for a day or two?”
So, I went and worked for him just for a couple of days and I really enjoyed it. It was really fun. And the rest is history. I signed up and became a part-time doctor there and I’ve been there ever since – I think it was late 1997, so it’s a long time ago. When the NHC took over I stayed with them on campus.
What services do you offer at Kambri?
It’s a traditional general practice service, similar to most suburban GPs. The main difference is that we don’t see the general public; we just see current students and current staff.
We don’t see a lot of very elderly people because the patient load is current students and staff members, so we see the sort of spectrum of illnesses you would expect in a young population – mental health issues, sports injuries, that kind of thing.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I like dealing with young people; I relate well to them. I remember my own student days clearly and I feel young inside, and I think that translates in the way I deal with students. You look older, but you feel the same, so I just relate to this group really well, and enjoy dealing with them.
What do you enjoy about working in the Kambri precinct?
I enjoy the facilities the precinct has to offer. I enjoy the food and the coffee. I enjoy lots of people being around and I love the proximity to the city. I like being able to meet people and seeing old patients on campus. You become a part of university life, which is really nice. It feels like you’ve got your own special following of patients. I enjoy all those aspects.
What have been some of the biggest changes/challenges you’ve seen over the decades?
I’ve never seen anything like COVID! We did a lot of our consults via Telehealth last year – while doable, it isn’t the same. It’s impersonal. To be done well, general practice requires personal contact. It requires you to be in the same room as the person and read their body language, it requires all sorts of subtleties that you don’t get over the phone.
There was that fear around March/April – we were wearing masks, the patient were wearing masks, but we didn’t know whether we would be able to stay open. We did stay open but it was something I had never experienced. Things eased up a lot towards the end of last year – we stopped worrying about it really.
I’m also a clinical senior lecturer at the ANU medical school – that’s one of my other important roles. During COVID, my lecturing has all been done by Zoom, which I’ve never done before. Again, it’s do-able but it’s not the same as lecturing students in person. I’ve been a lecturer since the new ANU medical school was first opened 15 years ago, and I lecture to students across all four years of the medical school.
What are some of your hobbies outside of work?
I love orienteering; that’s my main sport these days. I’m a terrible orienteer – I’m one of the worst in Canberra. They give out a trophy every year for the worst orienteer – it’s called the ‘slow and steady’ award. It’s a giant turtle that you’re allowed to keep for a year on your mantlepiece and I was the recipient of that. I don’t know if you could be proud of that or not!
I love bushwalking. I love travel and I like spending time with the family. I’m looking forward to getting back to travel again!
The National Health Co-op is located in the Health and Wellbeing Centre, on Level 2 of Building 156. ANU students receive free membership, allowing access to bulk billed GPs and other health services. Visit www.nhc.coop/anu for more information.