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Dr Jill Tomlinson is a high achiever, even by the standards of the medical profession, and is an active participant in the medical community. She has held executive roles across a number of medical bodies and societies such as the Australian Federation of Medical Women, the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, and the Australian Medical Association, to name but a few. Dr Tomlinson’s sense of possibility and her natural curiosity have made her a successful practitioner in a niche field of medicine—and a highly successful business owner.
Following plastic surgical training in her home state of Victoria, Dr Tomlinson worked in NSW in an orthopaedic unit to get the right mix of training for hand surgery, which is a blend of plastic and orthopaedic surgery. When she moved south again to set up in private practice, she rented rooms from a friend and colleague she had met through the Victorian Medical Women’s Society.
“I’d been the treasurer and she’d been the president, and we’d also been on the national organisation as president and secretary, so that worked very well,” she says. Within a couple of weeks of returning to Melbourne, Dr Tomlinson was seeing patients.
As you’d expect, the shared practice space soon reached capacity, and the two specialists were pressed for time, space and staff. “Having the two of us working out of a single room was no longer tenable in terms of both our support staff numbers, also just in terms of the number of sessions and time needed,” says Dr Tomlinson. “So I started to look for another location I could move to.”
Dr Tomlinson eventually found a place in Richmond, in inner city Melbourne—the site of a former general practice—and this gave her the space to explore her multiple areas of medical interest.
“When we found the practice it was a concrete shell. BOQ Specialist handled the finance, and I engaged Cooper Group to do the fit-out,” Dr Tomlinson says. “Both were amazing and we put together a brief of what was needed and they managed it from start to finish within a very tight time frame. We took the lease in May and had the fit-out completed for opening in September. So in terms of getting people hired and getting everything organised it all went to plan.”
“Trevor Knowles at BOQ Specialist was very supportive and was able to put together exactly what we needed, enabling me to focus on running a practice and looking at transitioning from one site to another. He liaised with the fit-out company and arranged a fit-out loan that would give us a suitable structure for managing the practice.”
“The rooms are set up so we have an onsite hand therapy and space for multiple administrative staff,” she says. “As well as the plastic and hand surgery side of things, I have also set up Ear Molding Australia, which imports a device from the US that we use to perform ear moulding on babies.”
The device can correct irregularities or deformities of infant ears by holding the ear in place, much like other braces for hips or teeth. Dr Tomlinson’s is the only practice in Australia doing this: “It has been very rewarding—it’s an exciting blend of activities.”
Dr Tomlinson’s hand surgery practice includes carpal tunnel and trigger finger corrections, as well as a variety of niche surgeries. She specialises in needle fasciotomy for Dupuytren’s Disease, also known as Viking’s Disease, which is not widely performed in Australia. Patients have come from around the country, as well as Fiji and New Zealand, to be treated for the condition.
Rather than predominantly performing open surgery for the condition, Dr Tomlinson frequently uses a minimally invasive technique involving needles. This ensures that patients can get back to using their hands within one week of the procedure.
To add to these impressive achievements, Dr Tomlinson is now managing a very young family. “At the start of this year I took some time off for the arrival of my first daughter, who is now six months old,” she says. “This has also been helpful in allowing me to understand what the parents of our ear moulding patients are going through. We try to see babies in their first week of age and that’s a fairly busy time. Now that I have had a baby myself I have more of an insight into bringing a small infant into a medical practice.”
Dr Tomlinson was well established in her practice by the time her baby came along, and this has allowed her the time she needs to enjoy this next phase of life.
“It’s certainly a very exciting time. Running my own practice means I can juggle caring for my daughter with operating and consulting,” she says. “I am fortunate to have the supportive environment with great flexibility, it is a perfect balance.”
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