Dr Richard Draper has been named the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) national GP of the Year.
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It's an incredible achievement for our local doctor and his team, but there was much more than celebration on Dr Draper's mind in accepting the award.
RACGP acknowledged Dr Draper's service across public, private and Aboriginal health sectors, in both acute and primary health settings, and as an accredited GP supervisor committed to training the next generation of rural doctors.
The Forbes Medicine and Mind principal was honoured for his dedication to continuity of care, his team serving the community even when their practice was flooded and they had to relocate, then rebuild.
The challenges they faced, and the broader issue of the GP shortage in rural areas, was front of mind for Dr Draper at the national awards presentation on the eve of the World Organisation of Family Doctors' Sydney World Conference.
Dr Draper said the award was a wonderful honour for himself and his team, but said he had to address the duality of his situation: he'd give any of it just to recruit another qualified GP to the Forbes practice he and practice manager Courtney Hodges founded five years ago.
"The difficulty is that everyone in Australia - particularly rural Australia - is in the same boat," he said.
One of the major themes of the sessions Dr Draper attended through the conference was how to attract GPs and keep them.
Research shows that doctors who come from the country and / or go through the majority of their training there are more likely to stay there.
Dr Draper himself was born in Parkes, raised on a farm at Tichborne, and has worked in general practice in Parkes and Forbes and in hospitals around our district.
He's committed to offering students the chance to train here: Medicine and Mind partners with two universities, including the new rural medical school based at Orange, to host medical students.
But that's a long term investment.
When Medicine and Mind flooded in November 2022, Dr Draper and Ms Hodges recognised that losing a GP from our community would be "catastrophic".
They switched over to telehealth, then secured a temporary premises and remained open while rebuilding their Cross Street practice - and the national award recognised this.
But within 24 hours of learning of the GP of the Year award Dr Draper learned they hadn't qualified for a subsidised flood recovery loan - apparently their submission had gone in after the cut-off date for our postcode although they'd worked to the deadline they'd seen advertised. This, The Advocate believes, is a matter for a further story.
Today we recognise Dr Draper's achievement: for a rural GP to be recognised among the many incredible nominees and winners at the RACGP award was "huge".
"We got to listen to at least a dozen or so other doctors and students and a variety of people speak (before Dr Draper) and it was really humbling," Ms Hodges said.
"Sometimes when you work in the sector you forget how brilliant everyone is: because it's around you all the time you forget how selfless people are and the level of sacrifice made.
"It's incredible. It was very inspirational."
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