Rural doctors awarded for outstanding service to country NSW
13th November 2020
Fourteen outstanding GPs have been honoured with a Rural Medical Service Award at a virtual concert and presentation ceremony as part of RH20 – a new event bringing together the rural health community.
Each year RDN recognises rural GPs who have achieved 35+ years’ service to remote, rural and regional communities in NSW.
Congratulations to the 2020 awardees, and thank you for your service.
- Dr Clare Donnelly – for service to Barden Ridge, Glenorie, Tumbarumba and Brewarrina
- Dr Carol Chan – for service to Coffs Harbour
- Dr Sandra Eagle – for service to Coffs Harbour
- Dr Sandra Gaffney – for service to Dubbo and Cobar
- Dr John Holmes – for service to Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads
- Dr Gavan Mackey – for service to Orange
- Dr Rick Martin – for service to Lavington and Albury
- Dr Stephen May – for service to Coffs Harbour
- Dr Bill Meagher – for service to Tamworth and Young
- Dr Graham Morgan – for service to Sussex Inlet and North Nowra
- Dr Tim Rankin – for service to Bargo and Bowral
- Dr David Richards – for service to Griffith
- Dr Hal Rikard-Bell – for service to West Wyalong and Bathurst
- Dr John Vaughan – for service to Taree, Gwandalan, Lake Munmorah, Wyong and North Haven
Barden Ridge, Glenorie, Tumbarumba and Brewarrina
Dr Clare Donnelly began her career as a solo practitioner in Barden Ridge in 1985, before moving to Glenorie District Medical Centre in 1995. Since 1999 she has been a part of RFDS clinics in Brewarrina and Tumbarumba, where she has had the opportunity to run a clinic two-days a week, six times a year.
Dr Carol Chan was educated in Canada before moving to Australia, where she practised as a Medical Registrar at Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. In 1984 she joined Coffs Medical Centre as a senior partner, and she enjoys all aspects of general practice with special interest in geriatrics, oncology and women’s health.
“I am very honoured to receive this award for 35 years of service. I became an accidental GP when my husband took up a position as the second paediatrician in Coffs Harbour in 1984. I was doing physicians training. The option was to stay in Sydney and be separated or leave and adapt. I chose the latter and have no regrets. Being a GP in a country town has been rewarding and challenging. My husband and I raised two daughters here. They have successful careers in medicine and there were no disadvantages in being locally educated. My parents would be proud of them. I always felt that the pursuit of happiness is somewhat overrated. I have many happy memories in my personal and professional life but more importantly, I am content with my life and receiving this recognition is icing on a cake which is already delicious! Thank you to my family, colleagues and friends.”
Dr Sandra Eagle spent the early part of her career in the UK, before becoming an RMO at Coffs Harbour Base Hospital in 1983, and joining Coffs Medical Centre as a full-partner in 1984. Dr Eagle has a special interest in obstetrics deliveries.
“I am very humbled and honoured to receive this service award from NSW Rural Doctors Network. I arrived in Coffs Harbour in 1983, looking for a family practice giving longitudinal, holistic care to families. I became a generalist with GP obstetric skills and felt embraced by the community. The challenges have been many, however it has been a wonderful and interesting life as a regional GP. Few careers could match it for variety and unpredictability. I owe my longevity to the support of my family and the team of staff and colleagues who, in my opinion, share this award. So too, I thank my patients for having faith in me and affording me great job satisfaction. it has been a privilege to share their life's' journeys and watch 'my babies' grow and mature. Thank you too RDN for your support and your inclusive approach and camaraderie.”
Dubbo and Cobar
Dr Sandra Gaffney has been a GP in Dubbo since 1986, a VMO at Dubbo Private Hospital since 1989, and a VMO at Lourdes Hospital for palliative care since 1990. In 2005 Dr Gaffney began in her current role at Dubbo Family Doctors. Dr Gaffney also practiced in Cobar as a self-employed GP and a VMO at Cobar District Hospital between 1986 and 1988.
Dr Gaffney has also been a John Flynn Placement Program mentor since 2015.
"Thank you for celebrating my time in rural general practice. I can't imagine working anywhere else! Commencing as an intern in Dubbo in 1979, I have not left, apart from a stint of a few years in Cobar and time out having babies. It turns out that Dubbo is very well serviced. Places like Cobar are where the serious challenges lie, and those doctors who have made long-term commitments to remote general practice are the ones who receive my accolades. It has been a privilege to be part of so many people's lives for over 40 years, and I am grateful for the community and the country in which I have the honour to live."
Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads
Dr John Holmes started as a GP in Ocean Shores and Brunswick Heads in 1983, and remains at the same practice today, after completing his residency at Lismore Base Hospital. Around the same time Dr Holmes became a VMO at Mullumbimby Hospital and as the local Government Medical Officer.
Dr Gavan Mackey has been a GP in Orange since 1982. He practiced for 35 years at Anson Medical Centre, a five-doctor practice where he was the part-owner, before retiring in November 2019. Prior to this he was a solo practitioner in Orange for three years.
Lavington and Albury
Dr Rick Martin joined The Doctors at Lavington in 1986, and is currently a full-time GP in a five-doctor associateship. Since 2014 he has also practiced at Face Clinic at Lavington, and Delete Medical Laser Treatment, furthering his interests in laser treatments.
Prior to this he was a GP obstetrician, and obstetrics/paediatric registrar at different times in the 80’s and 90’s at Albury Base and Mercy Hospital Albury.
Dr Stephen May has been a GP at the Coffs Medical Centre in Coffs Harbour since 1985, and until recently he also worked at both the Coffs Harbour Health Campus public hospital and Baringa Private Hospital in obstetrics and anaesthetics. Dr May has spent the majority of the past 35 years being on-call, only recently having retired to non-procedural general practice.
Tamworth and Young
Dr Bill Meagher has been a GP in Young and a VMO at Young District Hospital and at Mercy Care Centre, since 1991. Before Young, he practiced in Tamworth in GP and VMO roles. Dr Meagher has performed extensive locum work across Australia, is as a GP Registrar supervisor since 2002, and was also a mentor for the John Flynn Placement Program.
“I would like to thank both the RDA and RDN for the support they have both provided over the last 30 years. Rural practice would not be sustainable without them.”
Sussex Inlet and North Nowra
Dr Graham Morgan currently practices at Sussex Inlet Medical Centre, since 1984, and North Nowra Medical Centre, since 2004. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and also a world renowned international award-winning wildlife photographer.
"I’m wondering where all the years have gone but I’ve lived them, I must have to be where I am now.
The day I moved to Sussex Inlet with my wife Noelle and our two young boys remains very clear in my mind; it was an average winters day Wednesday August 15 and I started work Monday August 20, 1984. It was in an old house in the main street, there was a bore in the back and I used to shower there, out in the open when the tanks ran low. They were different days.
I remember the “oldies” I cared for in the 80’s, now all gone, many of them were younger than I am now; we are living longer. I've since been grateful for the privilege of caring for their children, grandchildren and so on. I remember thinking that those old folks were decades away from me but the decades have passed.
I seem to have arrived at this point in my life way too quickly, however, I feel blessed to have been able to do what I’ve done and I look forward to continue making the most of what this town has gifted me: mutual respect, caring and a sense of belonging. Being part of these peoples lives for so long is something I will always cherish."
Bargo and Bowral
Dr Tim Rankin started Bargo Surgery in 1985 and has been in continuous service as practice principal ever since. Until 2018, Bargo Surgery was the only practice in the town of Bargo. For many years Dr Rankin was a VMO at Bowral District Hospital and is still a VMO at Southern Highlands Private Hospital in Bowral.
“I would like to thank the NSW Rural Doctors Network for this honour. Thirty-five years sounds like a long time, yet it has passed in a flash. I really cannot think of another medical career that would be as rewarding and fascinating as rural general practise. The chance to share the joys and sorrows of up to four generations of many families has been wonderful. Country practise is changing of course, as is all general practise, as we gain access to more specialist services and technology. That said, the essence of rural general practise has not changed at all. There is still the satisfaction that comes with truly serving a small community. I still love this work and hope to be able to continue for years to come, and I hope the young doctors who follow in our footsteps appreciate being country doctors as much as I have.”
Dr David Richards has been with Kookora Surgery since 1987, and is a much-loved GP within Griffith. Prior to that he was a GP in NSW and QLD, including as a GP in Rockhampton for 8 years, and worked in numerous rural hospitals in central QLD.
“Thank you for considering me for the Rural Medical Service Award, I am very pleased an honoured to accept the award. I am fortunate to work in a group practice with a great group of colleagues. I would like to thank our practice staff who have been tremendously supportive. I would also like to thank my wife Joan and adult children Helene, Harriet and Adrian. I would also like to thank anyone who has provided postgraduate educational opportunities over the years.”
West Wyalong and Bathurst
Dr Hal Rikard-Bell began his career in West Wyalong where he was a GP and a VMO at Wyalong District Hospital, for over 16 years. His career then took Dr Rikard-Bell to Russell St. Medical Centre, Bathurst in 1996, where he has been a partner for the past 24 years. Dr Rikard-Bell has also been a VMO at Bathurst Base Hospital for the past 20 years.
“My name is Hal Rikard-Bell and I have been in NSW rural and country practice for 39 years. Sixteen years in the small country town of West Wyalong, 500 km west of Sydney, 3300 people in town, and 6000 people in the district. Wagga Wagga is our closest base hospital, 160km away. True isolated rural general practice. Then 23 years in Bathurst. Regional city practice is now very different to genuine small country town practice, however for the first ten years here in Bathurst, it was much the same challenges. There were deliveries, caesareans, anaesthetics, ED, as well as the consulting rooms. Here the growth has included the expansion of specialist hospital services and RMO’s, so hospital practice has much less GP involvement now. The small country town, however, still needs the frontline GP, and the GP proceduralist. There are plenty of those towns. It has been the career I always hoped it would be, the joy, the challenge, the variety, and the immersion in the community. There has been the ups and downs, and one must include the stoush with the Unsworth government in 1988/9 that led to the Rural Doctors Association. The RDN was also created soon after and has come along as a partner for the journey. It has been the right career for me. I think I made a contribution.”
Taree, Gwandalan, Lake Munmorah, Wyong and North Haven
Currently practising at Victoria Avenue Medical Practice in Chatswood, Dr Vaughan has been a rural GP for majority of his career in Taree, Gwandalan, Lake Munmorah, Wyong and North Haven, as well as remote locations such as the Torres Strait, Papua New Guinea and Brazil. Dr Vaughan was honoured in June 2020 with a Medal of the Order of Australia for long history of service to rural health. He has been a GP supervisor of registrars and medical students for more than 30 years in the North Coast subregion.
"I am deeply honoured to receive this award from RDN. I have been privileged to work in rural communities for the majority of my professional career, and I wish to thank all the wonderful people I have had the privilege to care for over the past decades, and also my professional colleagues for giving me such fantastic support throughout my career."