Maiysha Craig and Anthony Saltis are both proud to be known as bright-eyed country kids who plunged into a challenging and competitive career to become doctors.
They are obtaining the prestigious Royal Australian College of General Practitioner license that involves long years of study and practical work but they are not a deterrence for these student doctors at the School of Rural Health campus in Dubbo.
They are among a cohort of at least 40 medical students obtaining their Doctor of Medicine degree this year through the University of Sydney in Dubbo and staying in the campus's well-equipped accommodation units next door to the medical school.
Ms Craig, who grew up in Coffs Harbour is in her third year while Mr Saltis, from Uralla, is jubilant he's in his final year.
"I guess I see myself seeing a variety of patients...pediatrics, elderly, pregnant women, and just about everyone," Ms Craig said.
"I hope to be the family doctor who will see everyone in the family coming, bringing their kids along or the whole family."
Mr Saltis would like to practice in rural and remote towns with "flexibility to work both in general practice and at hospitals" to meet the "deficits" in the healthcare system.
"We need to be sharing positive experiences [as doctors in rural areas] and recognising that it's not necessarily a barrier but a wall to hurdle.
"We also need to acknowledge entirely the healthcare and allied health services because they make up the whole system rather than focusing on the disparity between rural and city."
They are also well aware of the healthcare sector pleading for doctors like them to stay and work in regional areas where the shortage of experienced or fully-trained GP sorely needed in regional areas is projected to be much higher by 2032.
According to the latest General Practitioner workforce report this year released by Cornerstone Health and Deloitte Access Economics, of the 38,388 GP practising across the country, at least 43 percent or 11,392 doctors will be retiring or leaving the medical field by 2032.
The number of homegrown young doctors, including overseas trained doctors, to replace them may not meet the ever-growing needs in both cities and regions, particularly the remote towns, where there are currently 10,037 doctors and these areas are projected to require at least 27.4 percent more doctors to meet the demands.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, 4.7 million patients consulted a doctor by Telehealth or remote video and phone consultation services as the virus limited their access to face-to-face consultation. The number of patients that missed out on seeing their doctors reached 2.7 million people, according to the report.
One of the recent changes to the allocation of doctors in regions could pose a much bigger problem for people needing healthcare in regions, Dr Megan Belot, president of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia has warned..
A long-standing medical workforce policy requiring overseas trained doctors to spend time practicing in rural and remote communities before they receive unrestricted Medicare provider numbers has been "scrapped", Dr Belot said.
"As quickly as it was announced, city medical practices started targeting doctors in rural areas to move to cities including Canberra, Hobart, Sunshine Coast and Wollongong.
"At RDAA we had a direct call from a recruitment agent looking to reach rural doctors with their job advertisement for positions.
"This is exactly what we warned minister for health Mark Butler before the election and we are horrified to now see it evolving exactly as we were concerned it would."
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Both Ms Craig and Mr Saltis could head out to the metropolitan hospitals for their final years or perhaps work in large city hospitals but they are staying closer to home and keen to work in country hospitals after graduation.
"[My family] is really excited for me, and super proud they just can't wait for me to come home and back working in the community," Ms Craig said.
"I understood the importance of rural medicine and the effect of lacking doctors that's why I wanted to work in medicine and first became a nurse, then a midwife before I went on to become a doctor.
"Having a good GP can make a world of difference to someone's health that's why I got into medicine."
Mr Saltis said growing up in small town like Uralla showed him the "long-lasting impact of a GP" in country towns like his.
"It's not a one-off affair for it is a continuity of caring [for people's health]. When I finish my degree, I would like to make a difference.
"I am very excited, it's been a long journey. You're not at university by yourself, you're there with your whole family watching, my parents are very excited," Mr Saltis said.
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