Growing up in regional South Australia, Dr Sophie Rymill (FACRRM Anaesthetics) always knew she wanted to practice as a rural or regional doctor.
Fortunately, her passion for rural and regional health continued throughout medical school and GP training, where several mentors demonstrated the benefits of rural medicine and the wonderful life a practitioner can lead.
‘There were very few career options that allowed me to live and train in a regional or rural setting. That’s where rural generalist came to the forefront. I realised I could obtain all the aspects of life I wanted to achieve.’
However, it wasn’t until she attended a rural health conference in Albury where she realised just how much of a difference she could make.
‘I remember sitting in a lecture on the disadvantages rural people and regional towns face, and how their mortality and morbidity rates are much higher than their metropolitan counterparts. That really hit home. From there, I wanted to come back to a rural town and offer medical services locally, and make a difference to those people who otherwise didn’t have the same access to services as their metropolitan counterparts.’
Fifteen years later, Sophie is doing exactly that, with advanced skills in anaesthetics and obstetrics complementing her general practice work as a rural generalist in Naracoorte, South Australia.
‘The ability for a community to have general practice, hospital, emergency and obstetric services is invaluable, and has many flow-on effects.
‘In Naracoorte, providing anaesthetic services at the local hospital means we are able to have other specialists visit our town and provide services. This allows people to access the care they need locally without having to travel long distances or be separated from their families.’
But for Sophie, the benefits of being a rural generalist extend far beyond just contributing to the health and wellbeing of a local community.
‘One of the best things about rural generalism is the continued relationship one can develop with their patients. It is special to be able to provide regular care to someone, admit them to the hospital for their acute issue and provide a surgical service.
‘I find it heartwarming to be able to deliver care to my patients promptly and locally.
‘I have been able to understand my patients better because I see them in my community at the footy, the supermarket or the livestock exchange. We all live a similar lifestyle and, I think because of this, it helps me understand what they need.
‘I also believe we have the ability, due to the trust we have developed, to help provide community education, whether that’s through high school education sessions or talks at sports clubs.’
Sophie moved to Naracoorte while she was still completing her GP training with GPEx. It was here that she met her husband, a local farmer.
‘We’ve now got a beautiful daughter, and we’ve established our lives here through my work in general practice and his work in farming. It’s been wonderful. I feel like we’re going to be lifelong community members and, because of that, I want to try and create a better town for myself, my husband and our children.
‘Knowing that you are making a difference is one the biggest benefits of working in general practice and, ultimately, I suppose that’s what I set out to do. When I sat at that conference thinking I want to be able to make a change, well here I am 15 years later doing that. I feel like I’ve achieved what I wanted to.’