✦ The Flying Doctors are, of course, an Australian institution, one of the largest, most comprehensive and revered aeromedical organisations in the world.
Well very soon Port Macquarie could have its own Flying Physio as locally-based physiotherapist Alasdair Thomson nears the end of his light aircraft training and seeks to complete and pass his official examinations!
Our careers can take us to many different places, domestically or overseas, and one of the perks of vocational relocation is it can be a great way to discover pastures new. Sometimes it can lead to a not so preferable destination, prompting an almost instantaneous yearning to want to return home, or at least elsewhere. However, sometimes we find ourselves in a place that we almost instantly identify with, that we feel settled and welcomed in and, subsequently, decide to lay down roots.
This is essentially how Sydney-sider Alasdair, better known as Al, ended up declaring Port Macquarie home.
In 2019, Al spent the final year of his Bachelor of Physiotherapy degree from the University of Newcastle on placement at various clinics and hospitals in the Port Macquarie area and, after graduating at the end of the year, decided to stay.
Al, his partner Hannah and their new addition to the family, pet dog Arlo, now call Port home and are enamoured by all it has to offer – with Al’s lifelong love of aircraft and a dream to learn to fly recently becoming a reality!
“Part of the course I studied at Uni meant taking on a practical placement in a rural area during the final year,” Al told us. “It involved a combination of studying, exams and practical learning at a variety of clinics and hospitals. It was a really exciting experience and an invaluable learning opportunity, actually being out there dealing with people and having a wealth of expertise to help guide and mentor me. I was constantly stimulated and learning new things, taking little pieces of information that ultimately contributed to who I am today. I chose Port Macquarie for my year-long placement and was so taken by the place that I decided to stay!”
Al grew up in Sydney and typically was active in a variety of sports while at school – cycling, rowing and rugby union were his favourites, with many hours spent watching and imitating the Waratahs and the Wallabies. This appetite for sport was a partial influence on his chosen career path, particularly in regards to treating injuries, of which Al says he copped more than a few over the years, especially on the rugby field!
“Both my brother and I both gravitated towards wanting to work in health care which was quite unprecedented as nobody in the family had trodden that path as a profession before us,” he says.
Four years at Newcastle Uni later, including that crucial final year placement in Port Macquarie of course, Al worked in various private practice, clinical research, and hospital settings before joining Leah Burton and the team at Phyx You Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation.
A dedicated team of Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists, Phyx You provides quality injury and sports rehabilitation encompassing areas such as sports physiotherapy, clinical exercise, women’s health, rehab, workplace health and exercise physiology, amongst others.
Al felt at home and one of the team immediately and clearly loves, respects and appreciates the environment he works within on a daily basis.
“It’s truly a great place to work,” he beams. “The whole set-up and culture is geared towards making you the best possible professional physio you can be. The team is very driven but in a wholly positive way, constantly striving to get the best out of you which, in turn, means the patient is getting the very best in treatment. We are constantly undergoing new training methods which we share among one another to ensure everyone is working at the top of their game, which we need to be, especially when dealing with patients who are athletes and whose livelihoods are very much dependent on being in peak physical condition.
“It’s also a very innovative place, regularly investing in the best equipment and educational support. There is so much better quality research being conducted and published nowadays and new findings and developments are always occurring. As such we are regularly being trained and educated on best-practice approaches which, ultimately, benefits our patients.
“Many of the more senior team have their Masters Degrees in Sports and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy and are constantly passing on invaluable knowledge and serving as incredible mentors. It’s a really inclusive place with a definite knowledge exchange where everyone learns from eachother - there’s a fantastic team mentality and environment.”
Al adds that Phyx You are not only limited to providing professional support but also encourage their team members to pursue and indulge in personal hobbies and endeavours to find that crucial work-life balance. For Al that main personal pursuit is flying.
A fascination with flying since childhood
“Ever since I was a young boy I was always transfixed with mechanical machinery and aircraft such as Spitfires – I would watch old movies with them for hours on end, totally mesmerised and also build countless model planes,” he says.
“My mother was a history teacher, a subject I have always loved, and I was able to access lots of information about World War II, specifically in relation to the Spitfire planes, which further fuelled my passion.”
Al carried this passion all throughout his life until one day last year he awoke one morning and decided to actually do something about it, to turn the dream of flying his own small aircraft into reality. This led him to approach Hastings District Flying Club and School where he enrolled for lessons under the expert tutorship of the resident pilots.
“It is a very surreal experience being up there in a small aircraft,” Al says with a smile. “Very different to what most of us are used to when on a large passenger jet. It’s surprisingly calm, even in choppy weather. You realise how impactful the weather can be, even if it’s just light winds. The realisation that you are in total control is a great but strange one – that if I tilt the wing this way or that then the plane responds accordingly.”
Al pauses for a brief moment of reflection: “It’s a brilliant sensation” he says emphatically!
He completed his first solo flight on January 22nd 2022 and has recently entered into the final stage of his training. Slightly inclement weather of late has meant he has been grounded more than he would have ideally liked but he is currently planning for the final theoretical and practical exams and hopes to have his full license within the month.
There is always something really heartwarming about people pursuing and achieving their dreams and Al is very much on the cusp of realising his - at least for now as no doubt there will be many more achievements to come.
“I just think you should try and do as much as you possibly can in life, get as much experience as you possibly can as you are almost certainly guaranteed to stumble across something that you will realise is your passion,” he says.
“Working in the healthcare industry as I do, you very quickly come to realise that the old adage of ‘life is short’ is absolutely true. So don’t be afraid to take risks or follow your dreams. Likewise, I always try to maintain a positive attitude and look on the bright side of life, try not to necessarily take all things too seriously. Life is short and you’ve got to have fun!”
Phyx You Physiotherapy & Rehabilitation
6 /152 Greenmeadows Drive, Port Macquarie NSW. 2444
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