Milton-based doctor Emma Thompson has taken out the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Rural GP in Training of the Year Award.
The RACGP Awards recognise the value of GPs in our community, celebrating the achievements of exceptional individuals who go above and beyond to care for their patients.
Dr Thompson moved to the Shoalhaven area eight years ago where she was one of the one of the first GP registrars to complete Palliative Care Advanced Rural Skills Training at David Berry Hospital through the Rural Generalist Program.
She has attained her Clinical Diploma in Palliative Care and is also working at Milton Hospital, where she was appointed to a GP Visiting Medical Officer position.
Dr Thompson is currently working towards achieving Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice and is completing her training at Milton Family Medical Practice and St Georges Basin Medical Centre through the GP Synergy training organisation.
Dr Thompson said she was humbled to receive the award.
"Working in palliative care has been a very challenging but rewarding area of work," she said.
"So after being an intern and doing my residency locally I changed to palliative care and never looked back.
"It has been a steep learning curve. I completed the Royal Australasian College of Physicians Advanced Diploma in Clinical Palliative Medicine and it was the first year that David Berry Hospital hosted a palliative care advanced rural generalist stream.
"There is a massive geographical area covered, from Berry to North Durras and out to near the Budawangs."
Dr Thompson recommended more doctors opt for a career in the bush.
"There is some negativity associated with attracting doctors to work in communities outside of major cities but I can personally vouch that it is a very rewarding career path," she said.
"Your work in the local community is not taken for granted and you quickly develop a varied and comprehensive skill set.
"So I encourage doctors, and indeed all healthcare workers, to give it a try."
RACGP Acting President Associate Professor and rural GP Ayman Shenouda congratulated Dr Thompson.
"The RACGP is Australia's largest representative body for rural and remote GPs and Dr Thompson is a worthy winner of this prestigious award," Associate Professor Shenouda said.
"As a rural GP, I understand how important it is to attract the best talent to communities outside of major cities.
"Dr Thompson is humble about her achievements but it is very positive news that she has put her palliative care skills to excellent use in Milton Hospital, where she worked with her palliative care peers to establish specialised use of palliative care beds.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has of course also turned healthcare on its head in the Shoalhaven area.
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"Dr Thompson has risen to the occasion and taken all challenges in her stride including shifting to telehealth consultations and maintaining support for vulnerable patients in residential care.
"I commend her on her work in the area and hope that she enjoys a long and rewarding career in general practice."
In March 2020, the RACGP worked closely with the Department of Health to secure a change to the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Rural Generalist policy, giving registrars more flexibility to choose the right training pathway.
GPs are no longer locked into the choice they made at the start of their training - they can opt out of, or into, the Rural Generalist path later in their training.
The RACGP expects that initiatives like this will encourage more doctors like Dr Thompson to opt for a rewarding career in rural general practice.
The winners of the 2020 national award categories will be announced at GP20 on Friday, November 20.