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HD Spotlight on John Conaghan

SOCIAL WORKER Hunter HD Service, John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle NSW

Q. Why did you decide to become a social worker?
A.  I think I had been pondering for a while about what to do with my life. I liked the humanities at uni and it probably grew from there. I also think that various life experiences propelled me to have a genuine interest in the relational and emotional self. Social work seemed to be the best fit for me.

Q. How did Huntington’s disease become your specialty?
A. I first was introduced to HD when I was studying social work in Melbourne in the early 1980s. I ended up working as a care assistant at a place called Mary’s Mount which was a care facility for people with HD. It was this experience which made me interested in HD and hence applying for the job I currently have back in 1991. I remember being challenged by how I could be helpful to people with an incurable disease and this stuck with me for some time before I went into the work.

Q. What’s the best part about working with HD families?
A. Without a doubt the longer term nature of the relationship with families, bearing witness to people’s courage, resilience, compassion, sadness and love for each other.

Q. What keeps you enthusiastic about your job?
A. The idea of working in the service of others, the development and maintenance of the relationship with people who have HD and their families and the hope of a better treatment.

Q. What is your ideal Sunday?
A. Knocking over a few jobs around the house, a pot of ginger infused chai tea with my partner Suzie over lunch and playing some cricket with my son Tomas at the nets in the afternoon.

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