The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has awarded Mount Isa GP Anna Cunningham its Community Project of the Year for establishing an innovative wellbeing clinic helping local teachers.
The RACGP’s Community Project is undertaken over 6-12 months as part of the Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice (FARGP) with the aim to monitor, evaluate or improve the quality of healthcare in a rural or remote community.
Dr Anna Cunningham developed the wellbeing clinic at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Mount Isa, after seeing a pattern of high presentation rates among teachers experiencing mental health concerns and related physical complaints, such as exhaustion and stress.
Having worked as a GP for seven years in Mount Isa, north-west Queensland, Anna first established the clinic as a pilot, after having discussions with locals, and finding that teachers struggled to access after-hours healthcare. The pilot was aimed at early career teachers, particularly those who hadn’t accessed local health services, and ran for six months.
The pilot was highly successful, with the majority of those who received care reporting an improvement in their overall wellbeing. The primary school recognised the benefits and requested that the clinic continue and be expanded to capture more teaching and support staff. Other local schools also approached Anna, wanting clinics at their sites.
Chair RACGP Rural Dr Michael Clements congratulated Anna on her award.
“It is great to see a GP like Anna Cunningham with such commitment and talent for rural general practice.
“As a rural GP and practice owner, I know what it is that draws GPs train and practice in rural and remote Australia.
“Rural and remote communities tend to rely on their GPs for much of their healthcare needs, from emergency care to chronic condition management.
“We know mental health in particular is a huge issue in rural and remote communities, and local GPs play an incredibly valuable role. GPs have often known their patients for years, they can pick up on when things are not quite right, and their patients trust them and feel safe to open up.
“Anna’s wellbeing clinic is a great example of rural general practice and how it is not only there to help patients when they are sick, it also helps keep them healthy and happy.
“The wellbeing clinic was an innovative approach to address barriers to healthcare for local teachers.
“This is what we should strive for. Every person in Australia deserves access to high quality primary care, no matter where they live. Primary care saves lives, and money in the long run, it really needs better investment.
“I wish Anna all the best her career, and encourage her to keep doing all she can to provide the highest quality care to her patients and community.”
The RACGP Awards recognise the value of GPs and in our community, celebrating the achievements of exceptional individuals who go above and beyond to care for their patients.