Celebrating the strength, passion and commitment of all rural women this International Women’s Day

This International Women’s Day we celebrate the extraordinary commitment of the women caring for our rural and remote communities. We see you and we thank you for the dedication you show every day in our hospitals, clinics and health facilities.

Passion is a word that particularly comes to mind on days like today. It’s a quality that is evident in the many women doctors operating in Australia’s beautiful remote landscapes, townships and regional communities.

We recently interviewed one of our own, Dr Margaret Kay, on her role as Medical Director at Rural Doctors Foundation and her involvement in our GPs4RuralDocs program.

Reflecting on her career, Margaret touched on her own experiences as a doctor and how her passion for healthcare has guided her career.

“My life has been focused on medicine. I have had the privilege of caring for a diversity of patients and learnt so much from families I have cared for – multiple generations from across the globe bringing a breadth of cultures, languages and understandings of what health and wellbeing mean,” she says.

“My interest in palliative care and aged care challenged and developed my understanding of healing and the role of the medical practitioner, while the joy of medicine for me has always been epitomised in welcoming a new life, which I thrived on as I completed my Diploma of Obstetrics over three decades ago and I continued assisting with the delivery of babies until very recently.”

Margaret also offers the important reminder that it’s not only our women doctors and healthcare workers that deserve recognition on International Women’s Day.

There are many women in our remote communities that help shape the lives and wellbeing of those around them.

“I think the biggest champion of my work at Rural Doctors Foundation is my mum,” says Margaret.

Margaret recalls her childhood as the daughter of a general practitioner who worked in a small town as the only hospital doctor, and the important role her mother played. “My dad and mum married just as dad was heading to rural practice in Bowen, arriving just a few weeks before the hospital was half blown away in a cyclone.”

“For my mum, it was a challenge being the sole family support for a rural doctor in a small town so far from home – a tricky role to shoulder when only nineteen years old. She learnt quickly, though she was very aware that it would have been good to have had the opportunity to learn from others who had previously navigated this path.

“After leaving Bowen, mum supported many other families of rural health practitioners, with lots of long letters, providing them with guidance to circumnavigate the complexities as they stepped into the joys of rural life.”

On International Women’s Day we also remember the unique challenges faced by women in healthcare in our remote communities. Research shows that while half of Australian medical graduates since the year 2000 have been women, they are 20-40 per cent less likely to practice in a rural area.

Rural Doctors Foundation hope that programs such as GPs4RuralDocs, will help navigate some of the challenges faced by women doctors and give back the care they so selflessly give to others.