Celebrating 20 years of good health in Shepparton

Friday 1 February marked the twentieth anniversary of a successful partnership between the Shepparton community and the University of Melbourne Medical School.

In 1999 the Shepparton community identified a need for better recruitment and retention of their health workforce, and the University of Melbourne Department of Rural Health was founded.

Department Head Julian Wright said the anniversary was a time to celebrate achievements.

“Thanks to this initiative 20 years ago, Shepparton now has doctors who grew up here, trained with us and now treat patients in their home region.  Our researchers are investigating rural health issues affecting the community, and we are working hand in hand with the Indigenous community on issues unique to them.”

Professor Wright said there were sound reasons to set up Victoria’s first rural school.

“Goulburn Valley Health understood the value of university training in its hospital and recognised that Shepparton is home to Victoria’s largest Aboriginal community outside of Melbourne,” Professor Wright said.

“Health issues presenting in the bush are often different to those affecting urban populations. Rates of chronic ill-health are high in rural areas, where the population is generally older and obesity levels are high. Cultural barriers can sometimes inhibit people from accessing treatments for a range of issues,” Professor Wright said.

Melbourne Medical School Head John Prins said the Rural School’s expansion was shaped by growing populations.

“Evolutions in medicine and science consistently open new doors into increasingly specialised pathways. We provide all our medical, dental, nursing and allied health students with an excellent medical education and a rewarding rural experience,” Professor Prins said.

“Evidence shows that the longer students spend in the country, the more likely they are to choose to live and work in a rural setting,” he said.

While this is a milestone birthday, the University of Melbourne continues to look at the road ahead.

Milestones:

1999        University of Melbourne Department of Rural Health (UDRH) founded

2001        Rural Clinical School formally established

2004        First Rural Clinical School graduate

2005        Opening of the Goulburn Valley Health clinical skills lab and “The Chalet” in Wangaratta

2006        Third campus “Dunvegan” in Ballarat opens. Melbourne Dental School begins rural rotations

2007        Extended Rural Cohort’s first students enrolled in Parkville. Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health established

2010        Shepparton Medical Centre opens