A DOCTOR from Japan will be amongst those celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Roma Agreement this weekend, the meeting which initiated the rural generalist training pathway for doctors wanting to practise in rural Queensland.
He will join 100 delegates at Roma in acknowledging the success of the program and seeking input on the priorities for the next decade of rural medical training.
The pathway, which is hosted by the Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, was established out of a need to address the critical shortage of experienced rural doctors at a time when medical retention was at an all-time low.
A group of stakeholders convened in Roma in 2005 to develop a supported training pathway to a career in rural medicine, which has since seen 56 doctors complete their rural generalist training.
Another 225 are currently in training and 77 interns will start training with the intention of becoming rural doctors in 2016.
One of those undertaking the rural generalist pathway is Geraldo Guimaraes, who was motivated by a sense of achieving and doing worthwhile work.
Originally from Brazil and spending his whole life in metropolitan environments, the University of Queensland student stumbled across the concept of training for rural practice at a Go Rural skills day in his first few weeks of training.
“I was only going along because it offered skills development opportunities,” he said. “I got sucked right into it though.”
From that encounter he was invited to a Rural Doctors Association of Queensland event at the Gold Coast, where he discussed the concept with former Wallabies captain and skilled ophthalmologist Mark Loane.
“The fact that he thought I’d be doing good meant it was worth thinking about,” Geraldo said.
A scholarship to work at Stanthorpe followed, a period that inspired him.
“We all worked at the hospital together – there was a sense of mateship,” he said. “I didn’t feel that when I was working at the PA (in Brisbane).
“The doctors enjoyed having students; they gave you opportunities, and the patients were very open and appreciative.
“There was a sense of being able to achieve. I was sold, and I ramped up my involvement after that.”
He is off to Bundaberg next year, along with his naturopath wife, who is just as excited about helping rural patients as he is.
Geraldo’s eventual aim is to work in the Yarra Valley in Victoria, a small community but not too far away from that urban environment he’s used to.
This weekend's guest from Japan is hoping to establish a similar model of rural generalist practice in his country.
Other guests attending the clinical forum at Explorers Inn from September 11-13 will be Health Minister Cameron Dick, first assistant secretary for the Commonwealth Department of Health Ms Penny Shakespeare, and key medical workforce groups.
The forum will also be identifying the key elements learnt in developing the pathway and address the challenges of working and training in rural Queensland.