Trainee medicos working to counter the Riverina's doctor drought say they are optimistic about the future of rural medicine.
The region's smaller communities have struggled to recruit and retain permanent doctors who usually work in each town's general practice and staff the local hospital.
But Ariah Steel is one of three young doctors who have spoken to The Daily Advertiser about their determination to work in the country and improving access to healthcare for rural Australians.
Dr Steele, 28, is taking part in a newly-launched program that health officials are trialling as a potential long-term solution to ongoing medical workforce issues.
The Murrumbidgee Local Health District's four-year pilot will train junior doctors to become rural generalists with additional specialised skills as obstetrics or palliative care.
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The MLHD has offered the certainty of a single employer and fewer administrative hurdles than traditional GP fee-for-service models in an effort to make rural generalist work more attractive.
"I think doing a program like this it it really urges people to go into smaller communities. As well, I think nowadays a lot of people are thinking about lifestyle more so," Dr Steel said.
She is joined in the training program by Maggie-Kate Minogue, 27, who in February started working in Gundagai.
Dr Minogue, originally from Harden and a former Wagga medical student, said she "couldn't imagine working anywhere else" outside the Murrumbidgee.
"I do feel optimistic ... [and] by encouraging and supporting GPs to have those advanced skills and to improve the access to health care in rural and remote areas benefits people in rural communities," she said.
"But we know that working in rural areas is quite challenging. There's that physical isolation, there's the logistics of accessing specialist services and transferring patients."
Sarah Woodford, 24, who studied at the University of NSW campus in Wagga, grew up in Gunnedah and said working in the bush "has always been the goal".
"And part of the reason why I decided to become a doctor in the first place is, because Gunnedah has always struggled to get enough GPs, ... to support and work for a community who needs doctors," she said.
Dr Woodford, who was named the Rural Doctors' Association of Australia's medical student of the year in 2020, believes medical students and trainees should be supported to undergo "good quality" rural placements.
"There's a multitude of factors that we can address and keep improving on to help increase the chances of rural health improving in the future," she said.