Rural medicine blitz

A UNSW student and an alumnus have been named rural medical student of the year and Australia's top rural doctor.

Doctors Francesca inside

Francesca Garnett with her mother Jan Schlunke

A UNSW student and an alumnus have been named rural medical student of the year and Australia's top rural doctor.

Fourth-year student Francesca Garnett is the 2011 Rural Medical Student of the Year and UNSW alumnus Dr Grahame Deane has been named Rural Doctor of the Year.

The pair received the prestigious awards last week at a gala dinner at the national conference of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), in Alice Springs.

The wins continue a strong tradition for UNSW in the awards -- last year's Rural Doctor of the Year was Associate Professor Pieter Mourik, lecturer at UNSW's Rural Clinical School in Albury Wodonga.

UNSW Medicine Dean, Professor Peter Smith, welcomed the news: "We've made a major investment in training rural doctors at our campuses in Wagga Wagga, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Albury Wodonga over the past 10 years," he said.

"I am delighted to see that both the 2011 rural student of the year and doctor of the year are from UNSW."

Francesca is in her fourth year of a combined Arts/Medicine degree. She has also begun a Masters in Public Health and next year will be based in Wagga.

RDAA President, Dr Paul Mara, said the selection committee was impressed by Francesca's dedication to promoting rural practice through her extensive involvement with UNSW's Rural Health Club and the Rural Allied Health and Medical Society.

The committee also commended Francesca for her efforts in helping other students develop an appreciation for the rewards of rural practice. She is co-chair of the National Rural Health Students Network.

The daughter of Ballarat psychologists, Francesca says she's always been attracted to working in rural health. "The best thing I did when I arrived at UNSW was join the Rural Health Club. It's linked me up with students all over the country who will become my future colleagues, which is just fantastic.

"I've loved every minute of it. And with 9,000 students all over Australia who want to work in the bush ... the future's looking pretty good."

Australia's top rural doctor

UNSW alumnus Dr Grahame Deane runs a local practice in Gunnedah in north-west NSW and provides obstetric, anaesthetic and surgical services at the local hospital.

A rural doctor for much of his 30-year career, Grahame told ABC Rural it's a tough job, but it has its rewards.

"I don't always love the workload. But I love the patients and I love the community," he said.

Becoming a rural GP had been a deliberate decision.

"What we need is not the cavalry charging over the hill to rescue us, what we need is more people coming out to be part of our workforce.

"Thirty per cent of Australia lives out here [in rural Australia]... we should be there for them."

Media contact: Steve Offner, UNSW Media Office | 02 9385 8107