Skip to content

Lucy Richards (Fr 2005) – 20 Years of Undergraduate Women

Lucy started at St Andrew’s in 2005 moving from Narrabri in North-West NSW. She is an Obstetrics and Gynaecology Registrar who works at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia’s first specialist hospital for women. Lucy talked with us about women’s health, shared her experiences in the medical field and her memories of College.

Please tell us a bit more about yourself – where are you originally from and where did you grow up?

I grew up on a farm near Narrabri in North-West NSW with my two sisters. My Dad farmed cotton, wheat and ran some cattle; a picturesque setting for a simple upbringing which I loved. I attended the local primary school and then went away to a girl’s boarding school for secondary school. From a young age I was surrounding by girls and strong women, encouraged to follow my dreams, and never told there was anything I couldn’t do.

What were your favourite memories and what parts of College life were you involved in?

Reflecting on my time at St Andrew’s it was jam-packed with fun and games. I played Softball and Hockey and was pretty proud to help see Drew’s bring home three winning Rose Bowl Softball matches. I sang in the choir and loved watching all the clever crew at the dramatic and musical performances.  In my final year I sat on the College Subcommittee as female sports rep and enjoyed helping to steer the direction of the college into the future.

Not going to lie though, my favourite memories are those seemingly insignificant ones: sitting on the bench with a cup of tea chatting for hours with mates solving the world’s problems, singing John Farnham’s ‘you’re the voice’ at the top of my lungs dancing on the dry bar, giggling with friends about all of the latest shenanigans and solidifying friendships that would last me the next 20 years and counting.

How has St Andrew’s influenced your life after College?

During my time at Drew’s I have never felt so surrounding by inspiring young people. I had a strong sense at the time that the people I was casually sharing $10 steaks at the Gross with would become our future Australian leaders. Looking back, nothing could be more true. These people have continued to be my greatest influence and inspiration to strive to be a better version of myself.

How did you see the College change for women whilst you were there? And have you noticed any further changes since you left?

I started at Drew’s within only a couple of years of the first female Drew’s women and so my seniors still had strong memories of life of an all-boys college. Naturally and quite happily we saw a few traditions that shifted as they didn’t fit the culture of a place that valued both women and men equally.

Seeing the women step into leadership roles took a little longer to shift. In my year a number of fantastic women stepped forward for leadership roles on the college subcommittee and there was some sentiment that perhaps they wouldn’t be ‘strong enough’ to lead both the men and women in the college. We definitely had some robust discussions about this with our close male friends at the time. I’m pleased to hear that there have been many awesome female leaders at the college since.

Not without controversy, I did manage to infiltrate a very important college subcommittee with another female friend was the first to head the BBQ subcommittee. ‘How on earth could cooking a steak be mastered by a woman’ they asked?! Rather successfully, it turned out! And finally, I was proud to be the first female to carry the Haggis around the dining hall.  

I remember feeling at the start of my time at Drew’s that the boys’ sports were much more important for the college to win, better attended by spectators and supported by the college as a whole. Pretty quickly in the years following, everyone realised that the Drew’s women were a pretty spectacular group of sportswomen and dominated the Rose Bowl in my final year – it forced everyone to step up and pay attention with equal focus and pride.

You are currently an Obstetrics and Gynaecology Registrar at Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne. Why did you decide to work specifically in women’s health? And what academic, professional or other experiences pushed you in this direction? 

Working in women’s health has been an absolute privilege. In my first year at Drew’s I lost my mum to a long battle with breast cancer. She was a young rural woman when she was first diagnosed and I recalled the challenges in her accessing care in the early days. I carried with me a strong sense of duty to help to care for the women of the future going through similar things.

Medicine, and Women’s health especially, has great variety to offer for a career. I was drawn to the balance of skills – challenging diagnostic tasks, complex communication with patients, surgical skills. From my first rotation working from the delivery suite, to fertility, antenatal or gynaecology clinics to long days in the operating theatre, I was hooked. I get to care for women from cradle to grave and walk with them through some of the most intimate and challenging times of their life. I’m very fortunate.

Becoming a registered specialist is a long process. Can you tell us bit about the different steps you have gone through? And the most rewarding and challenging aspects of the journey?

Any medical specialty training generally commences a few years into working as a junior doctor. Most training colleges will require their trainees to have some experience working within the speciality, evidence of interest towards the area such as research, course work and then sit for an interview. The whole process is highly competitive and many people spend years attempting to get into their desired training program and Obstetrics and Gynaecology is no different. I completed a postgraduate medical degree at Sydney University and then worked my internship, first resident year and a senior surgical resident year at St George Hospital in Sydney. Around this time my partner’s work took us to Melbourne and once there, I landed a job as a resident at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne and shortly after applied for specialty training.

The most rewarding part of my job to me is very obvious – my patients. Supporting people through the intimate, extraordinary, unique time of becoming a parent is incredible. But it is a true privilege to work with women through difficult times too – a cancer diagnosis, a miscarriage, chronic and debilitating pelvic pain. I find this part of my job by far the most satisfying. No doubt at times the challenge of the job can feel like its pushing me to the limit but this all makes the rewards that much sweeter.

You work at the Royal Women’s Hospital. What is it like working in a hospital solely focussed on the health care of women? How is it different to a more general hospital?

I feel so fortunate to practice at one of the leaders in women’s healthcare in Australia and learn from the clinicians and researchers who are paving the pathway for current best practice care. Acting as a tertiary referral centre, the Women’s is one of the centres receiving patients from across the state with the most complex pregnancies and our delivery suite one of the busiest in the country. There are also many subspecialty units such as Urogynaecology, Gynaecology Oncology, Fertility, Sexual Health specialists with whom I work at different times through my training. There are definitely vast differences in how different O+G units around the country work depending on the size and location. Last year I worked in Darwin where the O+G team all have an incredible breadth of knowledge caring for women with the full spectrum of pathology. Moreover, this care is delivered to women across some of the most remote parts of Australia where accessing basic services such as having a cervical screening test can be challenging. This certainly one of the most rewarding times of my career to date, and highlighted the diversity and variety that exists in this career path.

What does a typical day at work look like for you?

This is a rather hard question, because the thing I really love about my job is that it changes all the time – depends on the department I’m working, the roster that week, and the patient’s I’m caring for. Eternal change is the norm. Having said that, generally it involves an early-ish start, mandatory coffee, food on the fly, constant phone calls and pagers (yep, we still use them!), lots of talking, lots of hands on stuff, often adrenaline. My role might involve caring for women in labour and helping to deliver their babies or caring for women presenting to emergency with problems in their pregnancy. It may be in clinic counselling women with simple and complex pregnancies, or before they are pregnant in fertility clinic, or when they suffer pelvic pain or prolapse or a range of gynaecological problems. I may be scrubbed into theatre all day doing open or laparoscopic surgery or performing day procedures such as inserting intrauterine contraceptive devices. Or I might be performing ultrasound to assess early pregnancy problems or the growth of a pregnancy. I get to do lots of teaching with my junior medical and midwifery colleagues, I’m often working away at research project, and recently doing lots of study in the in-between bits. All in a typical day!

What do you like to do outside of your work?

I love pottering in the garden, walking Biscuit our dog and food shared with family and friends. In lockdown I took up baking sourdough which was delicious and fattening! When travel is allowed my husband and I love to ski, preferably in North America or Japan. But really, travel anyway is fantastic, isn’t it?

What are you reading/ watching or listening to at the moment that you’d recommend?

While I’m working, I tend to be more of a podcast junkie since finding time for reading somehow seems a little challenging. My nerdy medical favourites are ‘The Health Report’, ‘CREOGs Over Coffee’ and ‘Pregnancy Uncut’ (for the budding O+G). Others that I love are ‘Science Friction’ (super interesting science-y stuff) and ‘A podcast of one’s own’ (Julia Gillard interviews incredible female superstars).

Anyone considering the specialty, or just for a frankly brilliant read, I highly recommend reading Adam Kay’s ‘This is going to Hurt’. His diaries of life training in O+G- I laughed and cried the whole way through.

Is there any advice you would give to young Androvians looking to pursue a path in medicine or women’s health?

I love encouraging anyone who will listen to work in women’s health. It has been an incredibly rewarding career pathway for me and if you also feel passionate about supporting women, of all walks of life, and at their most vulnerable, then you should consider it. Specialty Obstetrics and Gynaecology is one way to fulfil this desire to be in this special female space, but the healthcare team is made up of a huge number of people with different roles, and if O+G is not for you, then general practice, emergency, midwifery, nursing, physiotherapy, social work are some of the many other people who play a huge part in the women’s health team. Go for it!

Is there anything else we should be asking you?

Would I do it again if I had my time over? Absolutely.