35 years and counting, ‘accidental GP’ still going strong
FOUR local GPs have been recognised for their service to regional communities, including one who admits to being an 'accidental GP'.
Dr Stephen May, Dr Sandra Eagle and Dr Carol Chan from Coffs Medical Centre were honoured with a Rural Medical Service Award by the NSW Rural Doctors Network, recognising 35 years or more service to rural communities.
A fourth, Dr Trevor Cheney from Three Rivers Health and Medical in Bellingen, was presented with the Bowman Cutter Award acknowledging his exceptional services to Rural Doctors Association NSW and his strong, ongoing advocacy for rural doctors and rural healthcare.
Dr Cheney has worked as a doctor in Bellingen for more than 19 years and RDANSW President, Dr Charles Evill, said he was a passionate advocate for rural hospital services and proper remuneration for rural doctors.
"At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Cheney was one of the first GPs to work in collaboration with other private medical and health practitioners in his area, the Bellingen Shire, which set up a dedicated, drive through COVID-19 testing clinic," Dr Evill said.
"Throughout the pandemic, Dr Cheney has provided regular weekly updates via an online newsletter to keep residents informed and reassured.
"Dr Cheney epitomises those qualities that Rural Doctors Association NSW prizes in its role as an advocate for rural doctors. I have great pleasure in awarding the Bowman Cutter Award to Trevor."
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.
Dr Chan was honoured to be recognised and said it had been both a rewarding and challenging career since becoming an "accidental GP" when her husband took up a position as the second paediatrician in Coffs Harbour in 1984.
"I was doing physicians training and the option was to stay in Sydney and be separated, or leave and adapt. I chose the latter and have no regrets," she said.
"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 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.
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.
"I am very humbled and honoured to receive this service award from NSW RDN. I arrived in Coffs Harbour in 1983, looking for a family practice giving longitudinal, holistic care to families.
"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."
RDN honoured the three GPs, along with 11 others from around the state, for providing exceptional health care to the people of remote, rural and regional NSW for more than 35 years.