Author :: Michael Tam

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Michael Tam Dr Michael Tam
Staff Specialist in General Practice, GP Unit Fairfield Hospital
Conjoint Senior Lecturer, UNSW Australia

At “The Medicine Box”

Read all articles by Michael Tam

Undergraduate experience

Michael Tam is a medical doctor in New South Wales, Australia. He studied medicine at the University of New South Wales, Sydney and graduated in December 2002.

Willowra by plane

(Willowra from the air. The yellow stripe that crosses the photo is the almost always dry river that Willowra is on the banks of.)

Michael’s undergraduate “elective term” was in a small 300-person remote Aboriginal community called Willowra on the border of the Tanami Desert approximately 370 km north-west of Alice Springs where he provided primary health care to the inhabitants in a nurse run clinic for 2 months. As per Wikipedia, the Tanami Desert is “one of the most isolated and arid places on Earth”. There is immense social and health disadvantage to the local Indigenous population with the result that these people have some of the worst health outcomes anywhere in the world.

Postgraduate experience

Medical internship and residency was based in the former Illawarra Area Health Service, primarily at The Wollongong Hospital and Shellharbour Hospital. The Wollongong Hospital at that time suffered with the problem faced by many out-of-Sydney Hospitals of understaffing. The flip side and silver lining of limited supervision however, was greater opportunity and experience and many of the articles on this website are inspired by real events or by what Michael perceives as “an area of need” for interns and residents.

While in the Illawarra, Michael held the position of Secretary of The Wollongong Hospital Resident Medical Officer (RMO) Association. The RMO Association at that period enjoyed some notoriety of being relatively active at an industrial level and was able to effect many changes to the benefit of junior medical officers.

General Practice training

In his RMO1 year, Michael applied for general practice training and was accepted by the former Sydney Institute of General Practice Education and Training (SIGPET). As part of his training, Michael worked for six months in a special skills term in aged care and rehabilitation medicine at Coledale District Hospital, and then a further six months in paediatrics at the Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick.  He successfully passed the college examinations and was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in 2007.

Career interests

Michael’s career interests is particularly in the whole-person care of people with dual diagnosis (i.e., comorbid mental illness and substance use disorder).  He completed a masters degree in mental health through the NSW Institute of Psychiatry, and his thesis was on the beliefs and attitudes of Australian GPs towards the detection of at-risk drinking by their patients in practice.  He has an ongoing research project examining the beliefs and attitudes of patients towards alcohol discussions with their GPs.

Michael has a strong interest in medical education and internet based resources. While in the preclinical years at medical school, Michael started an anatomy notes website for medical students, “Medical Students’ Retreat” with a number of friends. This website, “The Medicine Box” was started in March 2006 and is aimed to provide practice hints and tips to junior medical officers (primarily interns, residents and senior medical students). A six-month analysis of the website goal, designs and results was published as a book, “The Creation of The Medicine Box” in August 2006.  He has subsequently started a website focussed at demonstrating the evidence-based medicine process, as it applies to general practice.

Michael Tam is a Staff Specialist in General Practice at the academic GP unit in Fairfield Hospital.  This clinical training and research unit is affiliated with the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW Australia, where Michael worked as a lecturer between 2011 and 2014.  He continues as a Conjoint Senior Lecturer with the School with an interest particularly in blended learning and e-learning in the general practice context.  Michael previously worked for 7 years in private community general practice in the inner city suburb of Glebe.

Other interests

Michael has a strong interest in digital imaging and video and was previously a moderator of, a large online forum and community for video editing and authoring. He was heavily involved with the open source video-CD authoring community in and contributed to the development of the open source VCDImager. He authored and released a Windows front-end to the console-based software called VCDImager Tools GUI (2004).

In late 2005, Michael launched and hosted the inaugural Short Film Competition, an internet based international short film competition. Entries were submitted from around the world from the United States to Iran!

Michael is an avid cyclist.  He enjoys road cycling and touring on his custom built and hand painted Pegoretti Responsorium Ciavete.  He plays the guitar poorly and occasionally paints in oils.  Michael is also a keen recurve (Olympic) target archer.

Updated: 31 March 2014

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