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Alumna shares what it’s like on the COVID-19 frontline and how Genazzano helped her develop the skills for life and work

23 Apr 2020

Genazzano Alumna (2013), Dr Madeleine Warrillow is currently working on the COVID-19 frontline as a general medical resident at Melbourne’s Austin Hospital. She has been working for Austin Health since early 2019 when she commenced her internship after graduating from Monash University.

During her time at the hospital, Dr Warrillow has gained experience in a number of specialities including General Surgery, Stroke Medicine, General Medicine and Emergency Medicine. And now, due to the current coronavirus pandemic, is working in a new role in the dedicated COVID unit, helping care for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections.

Dr Warrillow commented what an interesting time it is to be working as a doctor.

“My role changed virtually overnight once I started in the COVID unit”, she said.

“The acuity and turnover of my patient load has increased dramatically and we are all having to adapt and learn as we discover new information and receive new guidelines for managing our patients with this illness.

“Earlier this year I was looking after patients admitted to the General Medicine unit, now I’m looking after patients who may have surgical problems, cancer or haematological conditions, have had kidney and liver transplants, or who are pregnant; but all with one thing in common, COVID-19”.

Following in her father’s footsteps, Dr Warrillow has always been fascinated by the intricacies of the human body and how it fights illness and disease; and would entertain her parents’ friends when she was growing up, by explaining how their livers worked.

This love of learning and passion for helping others is something that was nurtured from an early age during her schooling at Genazzano FCJ College.

“I have always loved learning and had very broad interests – whilst I’ve always been fascinated by science, I’m equally passionate about humanities and arts”, she said.

“I loved that at Gen I was able to delve into those interests and study something as niche as my favourite school subject, Latin.

“I am so grateful for my time at Genazzano and the opportunity it gave me to explore my interests and broaden my horizons, and not just academically”.

Genazzano FCJ College offers a holistic education that prepares students to become resilient, adaptable and confident women, as demonstrated by Dr Warrillow, who took advantage of everything on offer during her time at the College.

Whether it was singing in school musicals, playing in ensembles, debating or public speaking, all of her experiences at Gen helped her develop the confidence and communication skills she uses with patients and colleagues every day. She fondly remembers the librarians and teachers who were always ready to discuss literature and ideas and support her academic and co-curricular pursuits.

“In later years, especially VCE, the independence we were granted to learn to manage our own time and study effectively was great preparation for university”, she said.

“Learning to use my free periods at school to complete my work helped me develop self-motivation and learn how to prioritise tasks, both skills that have served me well through university, and now in my career”.

Dr Warrillow suggests that it’s important to follow your dreams but also to have balance in your life; and how years of study and learning can never quite prepare you for the realities of starting a career as a doctor.

One of the things she enjoys most about her job is working with a team of passionate and highly skilled individuals who she learns from every day, from doctors to nurses and other allied health staff. She is also highly committed to her patients and helping them however she can.

“Interacting with my patients is a highlight of the job – there are not many fields where you meet with people of such diverse ages, backgrounds and experiences”, she said.

“Helping my patients, even in the smallest way is the most rewarding part of the job and brings me so much joy. It can be as simple as taking time to reassure them by explaining what’s happening, or even showing someone how to FaceTime their grandkids.

“Following my dream to become a doctor is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s not always easy and demands patience, hard work and courage but it’s a profession of infinite variety and endless opportunities to make a difference”. 

Dr Warrillow encourages all Gen students to follow their passions and to never sideline their other interests and hobbies, as all the study in the world can’t replace being a well-rounded individual; and having a life outside of study and medicine is crucial to your own wellbeing.