AFTER more than 31 years in the “best medical career anyone could ask for”, Gunnedah GP and champion of rural medicine Grahame Deane has announced he will leave the town later this year.
Dr Deane and wife Karen, a nurse, plan to move to Port Macquarie – a difficult decision, but one he knows has come at the right time.
While he does not have a job just yet, he plans to continue practising and hopes to spend less time working and more with family.
Dr Deane first came to Gunnedah on Australia Day 1982 as a locum in his 20s, following an appointment in Thailand working with Cambodian refugees.
He was asked to stay and has since never really left, with the exception of some time spent working with refugees in Papua New Guinea and as one of two doctors serving 400,000 people in Tanzania.
Dr Deane told The Leader he decided to become a rural GP very early on in his career, in 1977.
He was about to undertake surgical training at Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, but wanted to take a holistic approach to the care of patients.
The decision to practise in a rural area followed a stint in West Wyalong, where he found he really enjoyed working in the country.
“It’s the best GP career any doctor could have – if it wasn’t I wouldn’t have stayed here for nearly 32 years,” he said.
Dr Deane said it was the involvement in the “full spectrum of life” of his patients – from birth to death, pre-conception counselling to bereavement counselling – that he valued about his work.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to provide services to the whole of the patient, the whole of the family, and the whole of the community those patients live in,” he said.
He is one of only a handful of GPs across the nation skilled in anaesthetics, obstetrics and surgery services.
His devotion to rural medicine and the Gunnedah community has seen him granted a number of accolades, including Gunnedah’s Citizen of the Year in 2008, Australia’s Rural Doctor of the Year in 2011, and an appointment as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia last year.
While he said he appreciated the honours, they have not been the highlights.
“The awards are not the important things; it’s the things you’ve been able to achieve for the family and the community you’re responsible for,” Dr Deane said.
Instead, he said, one of the biggest career highlights had been delivering more than 2700 babies – some of them second-generation deliveries.
Dr Deane was also instrumental in getting the Gunnedah Rural Health Centre – which brings together GP services, allied health and education facilities – up and running.
The job has not been without its challenges – there have been long working weeks and the trauma of seeing patients he had become close to become seriously ill and pass away.
But watching his family grow up and thrive in Gunnedah has been a high point of the past three decades.