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8 April 2022

Be there for Mundubbera and Monto: Dr Htoo Aung

Be there for Mundubbera and Monto: Dr Htoo Aung

Be there for professional and personal growth, be there for the doctor-patient relationships. Be there for rural Queensland towns like Mundubbera and Monto.

There’s more than meets the eye to the Queensland central-west town of Mundubbera. What might seem like your ordinary rural town is bursting with industry and opportunity. The ‘salad bowl’ of Queensland is famous for its harvest of citrus, grapes, and a range of other fruit.

This plentiful growing region also offers the opportunity for growth of a different kind. Junior doctors who choose to pursue a career in general practice are discovering that the region is a great place to be for both professional and personal development.

Dr Htoo Aung sought out a training placement in the region because he knew how valuable the experience would be to his progression as a GP. After spending the past two years as a Public Health Officer at Bundaberg Hospital, Dr Htoo commenced JCU GP training in 2022, making the move to Monto, a small town an hour north of Mundubbera.

“I am really interested in rural medicine. This hospital [Monto] is a bit further from a regional centre so it means I am doing a lot more myself here,” Dr Htoo says. “It’s exposing me to a lot of different procedures, experiences and patient cases. We can manage a lot of things on our own here so that’s why I decided to come here and I am really enjoying it so far,” Dr Aung says.

“When I started here, I didn’t know exactly what I would be doing. Given my past experience, I felt more comfortable in the hospital at first. But my supervisor at the GP clinic has been really supportive and I’ve started seeing patients here and understanding the GP practice system.”

On top of being well supported by the hospital and clinic teams, GP registrars who come to train in the region will quickly find themselves embraced by the wider community. The locals are acutely aware of the GP shortage and welcome JCU GP registrars with gratitude and open arms.

Local Graham Rowles Jr understands the difficulties in accessing health services in towns like Mundubbera. The son of long-term local GP Dr Graham Rowles Snr, Graham himself has worked as a pharmacist for over 30 years before taking on the family citrus business, Margram Orchards. 

"Doctors, pharmacists, most roles in primary health care; it is a challenge getting them out here,” Graham says. “There's definitely an impact on the health of these little communities. Having worked as a pharmacist in both metropolitan and rural settings, I definitely encourage health professionals to go rural. You get to know your patients, socially and medically, and you really become part of the community."

To doctors who are considering where to pursue a career in general practice, Graham says:

"Take a step outside your comfort zone and give rural a go! Commit to at least a year and be willing to get involved with the team and the community. You'll quickly find that a place like Mundubbera sneaks into your heart!"

Wulli Wulli Elder Liz Law worked with Aboriginal Housing Society in Mundubbera and has a lifetime of memories from the town and surrounding region. She knows the benefit of having a reliable doctor in the community and has an rare connection to local GP Dr Rowles.

“Dr Rowles has now been treating four generations of my family,” Liz told us. “It’s a special thing, having a long-term GP. You feel easy to talk and you can build that trust.

“We do have the services in the region, however I believe we would really benefit from having more local to Mundubbera and having doctors who stay longer. Out here, a lot of people are quite closed when it comes to their health and they don’t want to be telling their story over and over again to a new doctor.”

NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

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