Why I Quit My Job As A Doctor

The Backpacker Diaries: A Junior Doctor’s Year-Long Journey Around the World

The first chapter of my travelogue:


May 9th, 2018

So it has been an extremely long hiatus. The last time I did any writing was years ago! Life has been busy. In the last couple years, I have:

  • Graduated from medical school and started work as a junior doctor
  • Passed entrance exams into general practice training (family medicine)
  • Got married and moved out
  • Experienced medical mission work in the developing nation of Papua New Guinea
  • Lived in Jerusalem for a few months and challenged my ideas on what Christianity looks like.

So for the last three years, I’ve felt like a pinball bouncing around. No time to catch my breath. My first year as a doctor was a whirlwind. I loved it. But I struggled to find balance in my life. I struggled to find time to collect my thoughts. And I struggled to find time to talk to God.

Then some important things happened last year in quick succession. A close friend died suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated: he was a very young, devout Christian and someone I deeply respected. I asked my workplace if I could take leave to attend the funeral. They said no.

Later, on a different unit, I experienced prolonged and serious workplace bullying by senior doctors. I was expected to shut up, keep my head down and get on with it. I was encouraged to do the same by other junior doctors. “Don’t rock the boat” is the prevailing ethos in Australian hospitals, and I was told as such. But something inside of me forced me to stand up. I stood up for myself and things (predictably) got worse. The ensuing escalation was extremely stressful and it came to a stage where I was ready to resign if a solution could not be found.

Thankfully, the doctor’s union supported me to an outcome in my favour. But my bosses were not particularly fond of me after that and made that known on a daily basis.

I became increasingly depressed. As I began to question my work as a doctor and what life was all about, I was further exposed to the tragedy and brevity of life whilst working on palliative care (an expansion on what I had observed in the poverty of Papua New Guinea). I found the work incredibly meaningful and worked harder than I have ever before. But maybe the death I saw also made me realise my own demons: that I am still grieving the suicide of my sister and the accompanying alienation from my church community, who didn’t know how to respond in the aftermath (they chose silence).

All of these events took their toll.

My medical students commented on how cynical I had become. I laughed it off, but It was true.

I struggled to write or blog anything. I felt jaded and did not want to talk to God. What I have written before on this blog and elsewhere feels like a wholly different person. This is something I am still wrestling with – just where am I with God?

A blessing came: I took a long overdue holiday to Tasmania. I went camping with my wife in a remote national park and remembered what it was to live life again apart from work. Perhaps being in the wilderness has that effect on the soul.


With the support of family and a few close friends, I realised that I needed a break. I felt weak to admit it (especially to other doctors), but I was burned out. I felt deeply humbled to admit my weakness, but perhaps the admission out loud freed me at the same time.

I finally decided to take a year off work. I am sad, but extremely thankful that my wife is making a sacrifice to do the same in order to support me.

We decided to spend the year travelling the world. It is hard to explain, but when we finally arrived in South America for the first leg of our journey, things just felt right.

What am I searching for by travelling the world? What am I hoping for this year? I still do not know exactly, and it’s already been three months in this mysterious and wonderful continent.

Perhaps to see humanity with fresh eyes.

Perhaps to see what life can offer outside western paradigms.

Perhaps to see beauty in the vastness of landscapes, and to be humbled by living a minimalist, frugal and nomadic life.

But above all, I wish to see God again.


Next Chapter of The Backpacker Diaries:

Chapter 1: The Strange Feeling of Coming Home After a Year Traveling the World

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An Epiphany for Easter: The Gospel is NOT Simply Forgiveness

Confession – I think I have never fully understood what ‘the gospel’ really means.

Let me explain.

A couple months ago I was going through some hard times. Depressed and feeling distant from God, I opened my Bible to the Book of Romans. I wanted to remind myself of the key message of Christianity – the gospel – and hopefully find happiness again.

What is the Good News?

The gospel is described in the Bible with such joy, such passion.

This is supposed to be the “most glorious and majestic and thrilling message that mankind has ever heard”.

Yet, my heart remained hard as I read.

“What am I missing here?” I thought.

Hungry to find out, I stumbled across a famous sermon on Romans from 1955 by medical doctor/pastor Martyn Lloyd Jones. There, I came across a line he spoke that changed everything:

“It is again to misunderstand the gospel to think of it solely as an announcement that our sins are going to be forgiven. There are abundant statements of that in the Old Testament documents. It is not that. That is not the Good News… We tend to reduce it simply to forgiveness. Concerned, chiefly, as so many of us are, about escaping the punishment of hell… We have not seen the good news in its height and its depth, in its breadth and its lengthwe miss the greatness of it all.

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I was floored.

I have always thought I knew the gospel inside out – that it was mainly about Jesus Christ forgiving our sins through his sacrifice on the cross. That’s what Easter’s about, right?

But author John Eldredge also argued this “reduced” gospel: “That is not Christianity. There is more. A lot more. And that more is what most of us have been longing for most our our lives…The Cross was never meant to be the only or even central symbol of Christianity.” (Waking the Dead).

“Could I have really gone this many years with an incomplete understanding of the gospel?” I thought.

Thus began my search for what the Bible really had to say about the meaning of the gospel.



The word ‘gospel’ comes from euangelion in Greek which literally translates as “good news”.

Romans 1:16 defines the gospel as:

“the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”

So the gospel is the news that the world changed two thousand years ago when a powerful salvation came into the world through Jesus Christ.

At its simplest, salvation means “to save”.

Yes, God saves us from our past (forgiveness of sins).

Yes, God saves us from the future (saved from hell to heaven).

Many Christians stop there (just look at the top results when you Google “what is the gospel?”). But what about the present? What about the daily grind of everyday people, where people are crying out for God?

I began to discover that there is so much more to salvation then “simply forgiveness” and to think of it that way is to miss the entirety of its greatness; that which makes it truly good news.



The good news of the gospel is that God has also made a new way (Mark 1:15) to save us in the present day during our everyday problems.


The Good News is that God’s supernatural “power that brings salvation” is also the power to give us a new life.

A transformed life.

A new life.

Born again.

Life to the fullest.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

As I searched the Bible – I began to realise that this power to transform the way we live life in the present is the under-emphasised part of the gospel, despite there being numerous verses about it:

2 Corinthians 5:17-18

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Romans 6:4

We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The Bible

Galatians 6:14-15

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Romans 6:17-18

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.


This offer of a new life is what so many people are crying out for.

People all over the world want to change themselves. New Year’s resolutions, self improvement blogs/books, motivational counseling. But ultimately, man is stuck in his ways.

We look upon the world and see that we are all the same. We are all trapped in the brokenness of our circumstances. We are trapped in addictions. We are trapped in maladaptive behaviors and coping mechanisms that hurt the people we love. We are trapped in the rat race, the mediocrity, the mundanity, the meaninglessness of it all. We are trapped by our emotions, unable to forgive the ones who have hurt us, unable to love the unlovable. Our hearts are cold to the suffering of this world. We search for self-improvement but are trapped in our inability to really transform the behaviors ingrained in us. We are trapped by our pride, our self centredness, our hypocrisy. One glance at the evening news confirms this. When a man honestly reflects on his life, he sees this.


And how powerless we are to fix this.

Can a doctors really change the self destructive behaviour of a patient?

Can a government really change the brokenness of its people?

Can an army change the hearts and minds of the masses?

Can a man transform the darkness of the emotions within him? Can he really change himself?

Change must come from within. Even then, even the strongest self-discipline can only go so far.

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But there is a way to change. The Good News is that God did a new thing in the world through Christ – he offered the power to be completely changed permanently. God so loved the world and desired relationship with us, that he sent his only Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins. But he did not stop there. He offers us the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out. With God in us, we are no longer slaves to every evil inclination of our hearts, but we live a completely changed life. The Good news is that God transforms us so drastically, that he decides to take up residence in our hearts forever. God is with us forever. Our body becomes a temple of God. And the Holy Spirit lives in this temple forever.

The Good News is that God has made a way through Jesus Christ for us to be saved in the present – the power to save us from the current brokenness and addictions of our lives today

Jesus’ death on the cross marked the atonement for our sins. But it is meaningless without the resurrection (1 Corinthians 14:15). What good is it to be forgiven from sin, but still remain stuck in our old ways without a way to live a transformed life for God? When God resurrected Jesus Christ from death – he showed the world that impossible is nothing.

God loves mankind. But mankind has turned away from him. The Good News is that God has made a way for us to make peace with God and live a new life – the life we were meant to live. The Good News is that we can become changed people. We can become transformed people. Our hearts can be changed. We can be born again and start life anew.


The Good news is that God can transform us so that we no longer live for ourselves, but instead are saved to live life to the fullest. We are brought into a state and condition in which we live to glorify God. He is the centre of our life, the centre of our conversation. We are Brought into a state where we have relationship with God, and walk and talk with him, rather than living a life apart from him. Brought into a state where we are no longer slaves to our weaknesses, but instead live to glorify God!

2 Corinthians 5:15 says:

15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

This is what makes Christianity such very good news.


Real life. The power of God to restore you.

The Good news is that the Father sent his Son not just to forgive us, but to give us eternal life, to restore us and transform us, that we would enjoy life to the fullest and live a life in relationship with God.

Man At The Cross

We are transformed, and find the person we were truly meant to be. We find our identify, we find our purpose, we learn to love the person God has made us to be. “We are saved by his life when we find that we are able to live the way we’ve always known we should live.”

Yes, we continue to struggle with sin at times. (Romans 7) Yes, we continue to have hardships in life. But we continue to have hope of steadily transforming throughout our life, as we continue to grow into our salvation (1 Peter 2:2, Psalm 84:7 2 Corinthians 3:18)

The Good News is that that power of the resurrection, the power to transform death into life, brokenness into restoration, is available to everyone as a free gift.


Reader, this is not all theory. Why do I say so?

Because radical transformation is what God did in my life in 2010. I had simply never connected that transformation with the definition of the gospel. Indeed, my life is a testimony that the gospel is more then simply a message that we are forgiven.

It is also a message that the power of God has been poured out to transform our way of living. No addiction, no brokenness, no darkness within us is so severe that it cannot be restored by the power of God (Ephesians 3:20). And with that, comes the antidote to depression: unceasing hope. Hope for continual transformation in this life on earth as I become more and more like Christ, not by my own strength, but by his power working in me.


This Easter, many in the western world are asking “why should I care about the gospel?”

The answer: it is the supernatural “power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” Anyone and everyone. History testifies to this.

Alcoholics and drug addicts are reformed (Bill Wilson, Andrew Chan).

Murderers become peace lovers (Karla Faye Tucker, Nicky Cruz, Paul the Apostle, Moses).

Prideful and power hungry men become humble servants (Chuck Colson, Zacchaeus the Tax Collector).

People suffering from depression find joy (Lecrae Moore, Augustine of Hippo).

Seekers find their identify (C.S Lewis, John Newton).

Ordinary men become courageous (Fishermen Peter and John, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wang Zhiming).

In a world where people are realising the limits of mankind’s ability to improve itself – this is something worth caring about.

An Unexpected Spiritual Journey: Applying for Medical Electives

From the beginning, I knew I was going to need a miracle. Five months ago I decided to apply for an elective in a cutting-edge, world leading research lab in the United States. My chances of getting in were extremely slim. My CV didn’t have enough bells and whistles: I was from a comparatively unknown medical school, I didn’t have enough experience in a lab, I didn’t have any letters of recommendation or awards to distinguish myself and I was a full-time student in rural South Australia, which made it logistically difficult to do anything about these issues.

Furthermore, I had also applied to do a second elective in Papua New Guinea but had not received a reply for months. The resulting uncertainty regarding  dates of my availability made planning near impossible. When I later missed out on my first preference and the medical school gave me a timetable that was logistically incompatible with the USA elective – my dream became an impossibility. That night, I got down on my knees and prayed late into the night that God would do a miracle. I didn’t give up – I believe in dreaming big with God.

And God began to open doors.

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Within 36 hours, three things happened: a student colleague offered to swap timetables with me making the elective logistically possible, Continue reading

The Empty Tomb

Mourning at Grave

When I think about Christ’s tomb, it reminds me of times in my life where hope is stopped dead in its tracks by catastrophe, where brightest hopes are dashed, where highest dreams come crashing down.

It reminds me of breaking points, of giving up after giving so much, of the final sigh of resignation to Continue reading

The Greatest Martyr Who Ever Lived

Eden Valley Cross (Copyright https://thegloryofgodismanfullyalive.wordpress.com)

Eden Valley, South Australia (Copyright thegloryofgodismanfullyalive.wordpress.com)

Martin Luther King Jr was martyred because he stood up for African Americans.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was martyred because he stood up for those oppressed under Hitler.

Joan of Arc, Ghandi; many have been martyred because they stood up for their people group and their countrymen.

But only one man in all of history has been martyred for standing up for Continue reading

Balancing Life, Medicine and Faith: How Much Time Should I Be Spending With God?

Spare time is precious to me.

The time commitment of studying medicine has taught me to value any spare time I get to myself.

As I look to the future – I can only see things becoming busier with increasing demands, responsibilities and commitments.

I’m sure I’m not alone. It’s not just medical students – we are all busy in this fast-paced world.

Every day there is the tension of Continue reading

Coincidences: Chance or Fate? (Part 1)

Every year, 15,000 Australian students flock to the beach town of Victor Harbor for the Schoolies Festival.

This is one of the biggest festivals in Australia where students (aka ‘schoolies’) celebrate completing their final school matric exams over 3 nights of intense partying.

Strangely, a group of over 550 Christian volunteers from churches across South Australia also join them.

Why?  Continue reading

Memorials: An Antidote To Fear (Prayer on the Eve of OSCEs – Part 2)

Continued from The Lord is My Rock (Prayer on the Eve of OSCEs Part 1)

And I write to you 5 months later, overjoyed with praise for God, for by his strength I did end up passing my final third year exams!

Earlier in the year following the death in my family, even passing seemed an insurmountable challenge to me. So with overflowing gratitude and amazement I joyfully report to you Continue reading