Editorial: Passion, scholarly curiosity and professional drive abound in rural health

  • Three people medical training

Image: Julie Dillon

Gabrielle O'Kane
National Rural Health Alliance
Gabrielle O'Kane,
Chief Executive Officer

Australia’s rural health research and training ecosystem is world leading. It includes rurally based universities; university departments of rural health; rural clinical schools; rural health research institutes; centres for innovation; and grant bodies. This interconnected ecosystem has been described by leading academics as an impressive foundation of interconnected elements that are working to achieve the shared goal of building a skilled and sustainable rural health workforce. 

It is a collaboration of investment and resourcing by governments; the tertiary education sector; the rural health research sector; health professional bodies and networks; health training organisations; and advocates in the rural health sector, such as the Alliance.

Notwithstanding, there remains a significant discrepancy in Australia’s grant allocation process, with less than one per cent of grant funding flowing through to rural health research. While our advocacy continues to increase the capacity of rural health research, it is also important to pause and reflect on the incredible people who contribute to the body of evidence on rural health and its clinical application in community settings. For example, in this Partyline edition, Royal Far West take us to the Fitzroy Valley in the very remote Kimberley Region of Western Australia. Royal Far West wanted to share the passion of Emily Carter, a proud Gooniyandi and Kija woman and CEO of the Marninwarntikura Women’s Resource Centre.

Emily’s mantra is showing people ‘what good looks like’ in bringing about community-led change. We couldn’t agree more that Emily’s amazing work in her community deserves to be showcased. Emily makes every effort to ensure that her people lead the planning and transforming of their own futures. It is this community-led health planning that the Alliance is eager to have embedded across rural Australia through tangible rural health funding reform.

It was refreshing to read about young gun Jasmine Davis building a career in rural generalism, and a piece on the mastermind and driving force of Rural Health West’s programs, Emergency specialist Professor Tony Celenza.

With my background in both clinical dietetics and public health nutrition, I also loved reading about the wonderful example of dietitian Dr Leanne Brown who was driven back to the bush for the opportunity to work across clinical, teaching and research roles. Leanne is a great leader in rural dietetic research and practice.

I also want to make mention of the honours awarded to James Cook University Research Fellows Dr Hayley Letson and Dr Yaqoot Fatima for their scientific excellence on incredibly diverse topics. Hayley is developing a drug therapy for battlefield medicine that stops bleeding and stabilises the heart and body, which also has relevance for remote emergency care. Yaqoot has been recognised for her work on sleep health to make positive changes in preventive health care.

I am confident that many of you will be able to relate to the passion, scholarly curiosity and professional drive that you read about throughout this edition of Partyline.

Gabrielle O’Kane
Chief Executive Officer

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