Bega GP Duncan MacKinnon has today been named NSW/ACT General Practitioner of the Year, in part due to his "exemplary leadership" during the 2019-20 bushfires.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) announced the award today (Monday, September 28), with the Bega Valley Medical Practice owner saying he was "humbled" to accept the award after a difficult 12 months for the local community.
Dr MacKinnon has served Bega as a GP for 25 years. He is also a visiting medical officer, GP anaesthetist, and the Bega Valley GP liaison officer, who contributes many valuable hours to the South East Regional Hospital as well as the local health network.
Along with his wife Sue, he also set up an innovative, nurse-led GP clinic for teenagers called Teen Clinic to help meet the needs of rural teenagers. Teen Clinics are now run in several coastal towns in NSW and Victoria.
During the 2019-20 bushfires, Dr MacKinnon demonstrated exemplary leadership by helping to co-ordinate the local health response, including at the local evacuation centre. He played a key role in advocating for GPs in the local emergency response and fought strongly for increased funding and support for counselling services post-bushfires.
"It is a great honour to win this award given that there are so many GPs who have worked around the clock to help their communities during the drought, summer bushfires, and now the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr MacKinnon said.
"It is no surprise that there is a sense of heightened anxiety for many people. Our patients need GPs to step up and help the local community heal.
"In times of crisis, GPs need to work in partnership with all parts of the community and that is what happened during the bushfires. It was important to make sure that GPs were talking to each other and coordinating their rosters and resources so that services were open and available."
The experience you provide is only as good as the team you work with and I work with the bestDr Duncan MacKinnon
Dr MacKinnon's work on behalf of his community this year has also included the development of hand sanitiser stations in partnership with Rotary and the local small batch gin distillery North of Eden.
"We don't know what path the COVID-19 pandemic will take, but everyone can play their part. Early in the pandemic, with the help of Rotary, we organised sanitiser stations to be placed in key locations around the town and beyond. The local distillery repurposed its business to produce hand sanitiser that couldn't be sourced anywhere - it was a great effort!
"This was a community project to prevent any potential local spread of the virus and I think steps like that can make a real difference. It has been heartening to see people pull together and help each other out and I fully expect that to continue in the months ahead.
"One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is teaching junior doctors and seeing their skills develop. Under the rural internship model run locally, interns are placed in our general practice half time for six months while they spend the other half of the week in the emergency department.
"I believe it helps them build a more meaningful relationship with patients and at the end of the day that is what being a GP is all about. The experience you provide is only as good as the team you work with and I work with the best."
RACGP Acting President Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda congratulated Dr MacKinnon.
"Dr MacKinnon is a thoroughly deserved winner of this RACGP award. He is a GP who worked tirelessly through the summer's bushfires, which tore through the region claiming lives, destroying homes and leaving many people fearful for their future," Associate Professor Shenouda said.
"We must not forget that many people in the area are still doing it tough without permanent accommodation and suffering mental health concerns following the bushfires.
"Dr MacKinnon has been there every step of the way in the community's bushfire recovery and he will continue to do all he can for his patients.
"A pillar of the local community who runs a practice that provides particularly strong care for socially disadvantaged and marginalised people, I am sure that Dr MacKinnon will carry on showing extraordinary leadership in the months and years ahead.
"I am reliably told that Dr MacKinnon is a quiet achiever, so it is wonderful news that he has not only been nominated for this prestigious award but emerged as winner. Congratulations Dr MacKinnon, as a compassionate and hardworking GP you deserve all the praise that will be coming your way."