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World-class Medical Educator to be based in Mount Isa

3rd August 2017

North West Queensland has welcomed a well-known doctor and researcher as the newest James Cook University (JCU) General Practice Medical Educator.

Professor Richard Hays has over 30 years’ experience as a General Practitioner and educator with a passion for rural and remote medicine. 

Professor Hays started his career with the University at the inception of the Medical School.

“I was there for six and a half years getting the program developed and seeing it through to the graduation of the first cohort.

“Since then I have helped start up medical schools in Ireland, UK, Thailand, Canada and I have been involved in quality assurance of medical education undergrad and postgrad throughout Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, the western Pacific, China, Malaysia and Hong Kong. 

“I have had quite a strong research career, having been awarded nearly 50 research grants, and I have published about two hundred peer-reviewed papers.  I really enjoyed writing, and have also written a number of text books.”

While Professor Hays enjoyed his adventures around the globe, his heart is in rural practice.

“I decided at this stage of life to step out of University management and focus on clinical practice, teaching and research, back in rural and remote Australia, where the need is still greatest.”

Professor Hays is now based in Mount Isa where he will grow the research capacity of the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health (MICRRH) and contribute to the training of General Practice registrars.

In his new role with the University’s General PRactice Training program, he aims to be a steady point of contact for registrars in small towns.

“I think it’s important for people to have a name and a face and a person to contact,” he said. “I look forward to getting around the region and meeting the teaching practices, meeting the registrars and being there for them.”

As a research-orientated person he said there are some amazing opportunities in rural and remote health care and he would like to help expand the research culture in the north-west.

“I am certainly interested in helping people design projects that will be helpful to their community and will help answer any important question.”

It was his passion for research that led him to findings on the shortages of medical practitioners in rural and remote areas.

“A paper I co-authored recently confirms for all of us that, despite 20 years of significant advances, the communities that are missing out are the smaller rural ones, that aren’t on the coast, and the fairly remote communities, like Mount Isa, where there are still significant workforce shortages and people tend to be transient.”

However, Professor Hays believes JCU is encouraging more doctors to take up posts in rural and remote Australia.

“One of the attractions of JCU's GP training program is that it is the right model, being University based.  I have always felt that these programs should be very strongly linked to a University medical school.

“Here we have JCU producing a lot of medical graduates who are interested in, and come from, rural and regional areas. Many of them will work there if they can get jobs and training,” he said.

“For JCU to provide postgraduate training around general practice and rural medicine training is, for me, a natural synergy.

“The data that I am aware of show that JCU, in combination with the Queensland Rural Medical Generalist Scheme, appears to have made a bigger impact in rural and regional Queensland than has happened in the rest of the country.”

JCU is now working to expand upon its success in the provision of its medical training via additional funding from the Australian Government (Regional Training Hubs Funding).  This funding will allow the University to further build and connect regional specialist training pathways across Queensland.

Professor Hays agreed this is a step in the right direction to fulfill he needs of regional and remote communities. “There needs to be more generalist training for the surgeons, physicians, paediatricians etc, with more opportunities in the north of the country.”

Professor Hays’ co-authored paper ‘Where to next for rural general practice policy and research in Australia?’ was published in the 2-17 July 2017 edition of the Medical Journal of Australia. Find out more


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