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14 Nov 2017


Professor Paul Worley, as you all are now aware, is our inaugural Rural Health Commissioner.

Just pick up any medical newsletter and you will get his background, credentials, experience and why he was appropriately chosen for this difficult role.

So rather than attempt another biography, I’d like to share a story he shared with some of us in a workshop we attended at the Rural Medicine Australia Conference in Melbourne.  The subject was “When paying your bills is not enough” and was addressed to the RDAA Female Doctors group, mainly to an all-woman audience.

This story allows you to get to know a bit of his personal perspective*, and it may give you a glimpse of the man.

Paul rides his bike with his two sons in the countryside around Adelaide. You know, where the Tour Down Under is held.  Gorgeous countryside, the rolling hills were for them to attack and conquer.  And one morning they did. The three of them were in their glory, on top of the world, three athletic cyclists. This was so easy!  What a super sport, didn’t they have such great stamina, quadriceps, speed?

Time to go home, they turned around and quickly realised they had been cycling with the wind on their backs.  The road back home was another journey altogether, against the wind.  Their lungs burned, lactic acid in those super quadriceps, stamina waning. This was really tough!  They required frequent rest breaks, more hydration, and some internal resilience to get the job done.  Same road, same equipment, they now had a new force to deal with, fighting this hidden powerful adversary.  The way home was humbling.

Paul then summarised: pedalling with the wind on your back is like being a man in this medical workforce. 

The journey, the achievement necessary to succeed appears to be the same for both men, women, IMGs, visible minorities, those with English as a second language.

But there are those of us who are pedalling against the wind.  My extrapolation, I think those of us in Rural Australia are also pedalling against the wind.

Our “winds” are: 

  • The Tyranny of distance;
  • Lack of both medical and personal resources;
  • Insufficiency in the workforce;
  • Impossible rosters;
  • The need to be a GP and a specialist at the same time;
  • Third World chronic diseases;
  • Decrementing infrastructure with hospital closures;
  • Environmental hardships such as 50 degrees and dogs;
  • Lack of broadband internet;
  • Disrespect from our Urban critical colleagues;
  • Loneliness, depression, distance from family; and
  • Lateral violence.

If you haven’t thought of your journey from this light, just take a look from Paul’s perspective.

Dr Worley will affect you profoundly as the orchestrator of new Rural Pathways.  I want you to know, I think he gets it, this new Rural Health Commissioner.  I hope you meet him soon, he is familiar with Rural Medicine.  But you will also find he knows humility, fighting against the wind. He knows us.

* With acknowledgement to his wife Liz for the idea.

Published: 14 Nov 2017