A rural doctor who has served the NSW town of Cooma for nearly 30 years - and stepped in last year to save the solo general practice in Bombala, an hour's drive away - has received the Rural Doctors Association of Australia's (RDAA) Rural Doctor of the Year Award for 2021.
Dr Hamish Steiner was presented with the Award at the Rural Medicine Australia virtual conference on Friday night.
The award is presented annually to a rural doctor who has shown exceptional work "above and beyond" the call of duty, and leadership in areas like improving access to quality healthcare for their community.
Dr Steiner is co-owner at one of Cooma's two general practices. He is also a long-standing visiting medical officer (VMO) at Cooma Hospital, where he provides emergency and in-patient services and is an active participant in the on-call roster.
"I was very surprised and humbled to have even been nominated for this award," Dr Steiner said.
"There are so many rural doctors doing amazing work throughout Australia, that I feel this award could be given out many times over to so many rural doctors who are working to keep their rural communities provided with excellent healthcare.
"Being a rural GP is an incredibly rewarding career, and if I had the chance to do it again I would. I really enjoy the GP work and still find the hospital work challenging and interesting.
"I would like to thank my colleague who nominated me for this, and my partner, Dr Ruby Curtis, for coming on the rural medical journey with me. Being a rural doctor is so much easier when you can work with great people."
RDAA president John Hall said the award was significant recognition by his medical peers of Dr Steiner's "dedication to both his community and his healthcare colleagues".
"Hamish has worked tirelessly over many years to maintain and improve access to healthcare for the people of Cooma and district," Dr Hall said.
"He is also widely known as someone who will respond to a call for help from his colleagues at any time of the day or night - this has even extended to taking food packs to them when they are part-way through a busy night on-call at the hospital, and offering to stand in for them.
"But his willingness to assist extends further than this.
"Last year, he assumed ownership of the only medical centre in the town of Bombala, upon the retirement of its dedicated and long-serving local doctor, Dr Colin Pate.
"Bombala has struggled over many years in attracting more doctors, and Hamish and his colleagues have worked to have the practice accredited to enable GP registrars to work there and improve its chances of attracting a long-term medical workforce.
"All this has occurred, of course, against the background of the COVID pandemic and the ensuing vaccination rollout - and the additional impact that has had on medical practices and their workloads.
"Hamish is also passionate about educating and mentoring medical students and GP registrars, and is a very popular supervisor. He freely makes himself available to provide advice and support to registrars at all times, as well as to provide orientations for locums and visiting specialists at the local hospital.
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"He even made a video with the help of his daughter last year to recruit more young doctors to Cooma - this won the top prize in a competition run by GP Synergy, one of the regional training organisations for GP registrars.
"Hamish holds numerous medical leadership positions, and is proactive about contacting local health executives and politicians if there are issues impacting on the provision of care to his community. Some of his colleagues joke that this group must have a 'from Hamish' folder in their correspondence files to keep track of his missives!
"We warmly congratulate Hamish on this highly deserved award, and thank him for his enormous commitment to the people of Cooma and district, as well as training and supporting the future rural medical workforce."