A Mollymook GP-in-training has been selected as part of a prestigious research program.
Dr Darran Foo has been selected for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) 2021 Academic Post program.
The program allows Dr Foo to combine his general practice and academic ambitions while living in one of Australia's prime surf locations.
"As a GP registrar you get more opportunities to practice your clinical skills and take on more responsibility in rural and regional areas if you compare to experience you get in a metro area," he said.
"You feel part of the community in a regional or rural town as opposed to the city.
"There's definitely less traffic - and less people crowding the surf breaks."
The program is a 12-month training term offered to Australian General Practice Training registrars, and aims to promote general practice research.
Those who take part in the program need to complete a research project, supported by a university.
Dr Foo's research proposal looks at the impact of living in a rural area on breast cancer treatment.
"Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in women in Australia, and recent studies have shown women living in rural areas have worse survival rates for breast cancer, compared to those in urban areas," he said.
"The reason for this is still unclear, and there have been very limited studies, if any, examining the primary care aspect of the breast cancer journey in rural Australia."
Dr Foo said it was thought lack of access to specialists and rural stoicism drove the trend, however recent studies have indicated this may not be the case.
"If we can find out what's happening at the primary care level we can make a real difference," he said.
"We know GPs play a vital role in early diagnosis as they are often the first port of call for patients with new symptoms, especially in rural and regional areas."
Dr Foo will analyse large administrative datasets from a variety of sources across the nation and measure the length of time between stages of treatment for breast cancer patients.
He will then analyse what factors might influence the length of time between stages.
"I'm interested in how rurality affects specialist referral times," he said.
"Studies show women in rural areas are more likely to have late stage cancer upon diagnosis and a longer diagnositc interval.
"There is no clear answer for a lot of these issues - that's what this research hopes to find."
Dr Foo's project is part of a larger study that is being conducted jointly by the University of Wollongong, the University of NSW and the University of Newcastle.
He said he was excited to have the opportunity to be part of such a large project while living in a beautiful part of the world.