Appeal of rural medicine may grow post-pandemic

(4th, 5th & 6th from left to right) Mr Atul Sharma, Ms Emily Tugwell and Mr Riley Attard attended the Batemans Bay Rotary Club dinner where they were awarded their scholarships.

Atul Sharma at the Moruya Hospital air retrieval helipad

Growing up in bustling Western Sydney, the idea of rural living never crossed Mr Atul Sharma’s mind.

But after a visit to the Eurobodalla area in 2017, he started to see the appeal of small town community living.

“At the time, I was participating in a climate science research project and I had a lovely experience engaging with the community. It was that experience that motivated me to apply for the rural stream. Back then I didn’t know the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School had rural locations, so it’s epic to see my path come full circle,” he smiled.

During his rural placement in Eurobodalla, Mr Sharma has become well aware of the benefits of small town living such as the strong sense of community, the slower pace of life, and fresher air.

However, he’s also aware of the numerous factors that traditionally impede doctors going rural. Since the pandemic, Mr Sharma suggests there may be a shift in thinking.

“It’s exciting to consider how telehealth agreements, remote working arrangements for partners, distance education opportunities for children, remote access to services and broader regional development have improved. There’s a good chance this may encourage more health professionals to consider a career in a rural or regional location,” he observed.

Without a doubt, Mr Sharma credits the community of Eurobodalla as the highlight of his rural placement. Although he was initially concerned about “fitting in as a brown dude in a predominantly white area,” his experience on the ground has been positive and he credits the support of his fellow rural students as enhancing the experience.

“I love how a chat with a stranger at a café or shops can turn into a 10-minute yarn. Eurobodalla has a primarily older population, so I’ve heard many stories from residents who have had interesting careers and lives.”

“I’ve also learned that community groups, like the Batemans Bay Rotary Club, do amazing work to support their communities.”

“My only knowledge of Rotary prior to my rural placement was through the actor Matthew McConaughey’s gap year experience in outback NSW. I highly recommend the ‘Armchair Expert’ podcast where he hilariously goes into the details.”

“I did not fully appreciate the breadth of experience amongst Rotarians. The Bateman’s Bay Rotary Club alone includes a retired rocket scientist, members of parliament, chemists and teachers.”

“Did you know that Rotary was integral to eradicating Polio in Australia? They’ve been involved in providing clean water to communities in the Philippines and they support education through scholarships. Their impact is deep and far reaching.”

“One day, down the track, I look forward to being a part of a Rotary team,” Mr Sharma advised.

“I’m so grateful to the Batemans Bay Rotary Club for the Scholarship I was recently awarded. It has allowed me to focus on improving my health and volunteering in the community rather than having to undertake part time work.  I had surgery last year so am doing necessary physiotherapy sessions, and I’ve been able to pick up yoga. I am also looking forward to taking my roommates to a fancy dinner!”

Mr Sharma along with fellow students Mr Riley Attard and Ms Emily Tugwell attended the award presentation. Mr Attard and Ms Tugwell were also award Rotary scholarships through the newly formed Ivan Ryrie Scholarship.

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Updated:  21 February 2024/Responsible Officer:  Science Web/Page Contact:  Science Web