The first Australian doctors to receive the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) new Rural Generalist Fellowship will be awarded their parchments at a ceremony in South Australia on Saturday 19th November 2022.
The RACGP’s Rural Generalist Fellowship trains GPs to meet the challenges of rural and remote practice with additional skills, such as emergency medicine and surgery, mental health, obstetrics and child health, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and internal medicine.
As rural generalist medicine progresses throughout Australia, rural and remote communities will benefit from access to a greater number of highly trained specialist GPs with additional rural skills that broaden the range of locally available primary care services.
Five new Fellows from South Australia will be the first to receive the RACGP’s Rural Generalist Parchment – the official certificate of Fellowship, and three of these new Fellows will attend the ceremony. The new Fellows include:
· Dr Gerry Considine, Burra SA
· Dr Mel Considine, Clare SA
· Dr Susie Keynes, Port Augusta SA (unable to attend in person)
· Dr Chirag Patel, Whyalla SA
· Dr Laura Sharley, Victor Harbour SA (unable to attend in person)
Two of the first new Rural Generalists, Dr Gerry Considine and Dr Mel Considine, also happen to be married, and practice in neighbouring towns, with Mel in Clare and Gerry working across Burra and Clare, north of Adelaide.
Mel said she finds rural practice varied, sometimes exhausting, but challenging and satisfying.
“Probably the most gratifying feature of rural practice is the long-term relationships that you can build with your patients,” she said.
“You truly get to know them and their families, in the context of the local community and so you can tailor their care to be more appropriate for them as individuals.”
Gerry agrees: “I get a real kick out of being a part of a small community and contributing to it outside of work, helping with kids’ sport, training with the local volunteer ambulance team or talking with local community groups about health topics.”
Both Gerry and Mel say the Rural Generalist Fellowship has provided them a pathway to focus their career interests. Gerry developed a passion for skin cancer medicine after seeing the effects of metastatic melanoma when he was an intern in Adeliade and said the Fellowship provides a pathway to further his knowledge in this area; Mel says she was able to undertake further studies in breastfeeding medicine and paediatrics.
“I’ve developed a great passion for evidence-based perinatal care and breastfeeding education and support, and additional training via the Rural Generalist Fellowship was important to me as it ensured that I was providing the best level of care that I could for my community, in an area of special interest for me,” she said.
Dr Susie Keynes is a Rural Generalist with the Royal Flying Doctor Service based in Port Augusta, from where she flies out to conduct clinics in small and Aboriginal communities and provide emergency care for people from Outback townships, communities or the side of the road. She also provides locum GP obstetrics in South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Dr Keynes said her job is a rewarding combination of primary care, emergency care and obstetrics.
“I was nearly born on a Royal Flying Doctor Service plane, so when I had an opportunity to join the RFDS, it just grabbed me. I really like the mix of primary healthcare and emergency care which requires you to be able to adapt, and I’ve been able to build connection with communities that have a hard time getting connected to healthcare.”
She said the Rural Generalist Fellowship reflects the extension of skills needed for rural general practice.
"How broad your skillset is - that's the defininition of rural general practice. It's asking someone to deliver primary healthcare, emergency care, in-hospital care and potentailly other areas like anaesthetics and obstetrics. The lower visibility of general pratice has been heartbreaking, but it's where the longitudinal work of keeping people health happens."
RACGP Rural Chair Associate Professor Michael Clements welcomed the new graduates.
“Congratulations to our new Fellows on this new stage in your careers, I have no doubt you will go on to do great things serving their rural communities across South Australia,” he said.
“As a rural GP, I find the relationships I’ve been able to build with patients through rural practice very fulfilling. Outside major cities, specialist medical services can be hours away. You can be the only doctor able to provide essential care in the area or respond in an emergency, and this is why extended generalist skills are so valuable for rural communities. The Rural General Fellowship provides this training.”
Associate Professor Clements said there is a high demand for GPs across Australia, particularly in rural and remote areas, and that providing essential primary care services outside Australia’s capital cities is exceptionally rewarding.
“Many areas in Australia desperately need more GPs, and GPs with advanced rural skills in essential areas of practice, such as emergency medicine and surgery.
“You also get excellent opportunities to provide holistic care and see the results of your work in the community, from caring for patients from birth to adulthood, to seeing older patients’ health improve with your advice, such as managing chronic conditions. As rural GPs, we are highly valued by our communities.
“Our Rural Generalist Fellowship is a fantastic option for doctors working in rural areas who want to expand their skills and experience more variety, or doctors who want to move from the city for a career with a high-impact and a focus on holistic community health.”