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Department of General Practice and Rural Health celebrates 30 years

Wednesday 13 November 2013 12:23pm

Drs Campbell Murdoch (left) and Ashley Aitken.
Drs Campbell Murdoch (left) and Ashley Aitken cut the cake at Friday's festivities.

Thirty years may not seem much when put in the context of the nearly 150-year history of the University of Otago, but for the University's General Practice and Rural Health department, the milestone was well worth commemorating.

The milestone was marked by nearly 100 students, staff, alumni, and local general practitioners at a celebration held on Friday at the University Staff Club.

Associate Professor Chrys Jaye who currently heads the Department, says the event was a huge success.

"It was wonderful to see so many people reconnecting, reminiscing and networking with our speakers and each other."

The night's celebrations kicked off with a mihi delivered by Mark Brunton and continued with a series of speakers including the present and past heads of department as well as Dr Graham Mortimer, former dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine.

The evening was capped off with the presentation of the annual Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust Scholarships which encourage undergraduate and rural health professional research and professional development. Sue Farry, of the Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust, was on hand to present this year's awards, worth a total of NZ$30,000, to Rebecca Craw and David Neynens.

Established in 1983, the then Department of General Practice was one of the first such departments in the world and the first in New Zealand.

"The creation of the Department reflected an emerging view of the importance of generalist and primary care medicine in New Zealand, and internationally. This view has only got stronger over the last 30 years," says Professor Susan Dovey, who teaches within the department.

Associate Professor Jaye says that today the department continues to develop its role in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and in national and international practice-based research.

"Over the past 30 years, the Department has developed a strong rural focus delivering 25 per cent of the undergraduate curriculum, setting up a postgraduate diploma in rural provincial hospital practice and a postgraduate certificate in clinician performed ultrasound, in addition to a rural immersion programme for fifth year medical students."

Since opening, the department has seen over 100 graduates go on to occupy key positions within The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and other national professional bodies.

As for the future of the Department, Associate Professor Jaye says she expects to see the Department develop stronger interdisciplinary relationships with the other health professions and also becoming stronger in its research profile.

The Otago Bulletin Board first published this article on 12 November 2013.