Fresh from her recognition by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Mount Isa GP Anna Cunningham is looking towards the next challenge.
Dr Cunningham has just won the RACGP Project of the Year for establishing an innovative wellbeing clinic helping local teachers, a project undertaken over 6-12 months as part of the Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice to evaluate or improve healthcare in a rural or remote community.
Dr Cunningham developed the wellbeing clinic at Mount Isa's St Joseph's Catholic Primary School after seeing a pattern of high presentation rates among teachers experiencing mental health concerns and related physical complaints, such as exhaustion and stress.
Dr Cunningham, who has been a GP for seven years at Mount Isa Medical and Headspace said the project was part of her rural generalist accreditation and established the clinic as a mental health project after finding teachers struggled to access after-hours healthcare.
"A lot of early career teachers work out here and I found they were often presenting in distress having to deal with complex social issues and isolation, it takes a toll on them," Dr Cunningham said.
"I thought I would try a preventative approach for health and wellbeing."
The project was successful, with the majority of those who received care reporting an improvement in their overall wellbeing.
St Joseph's requested that the clinic continue and other local schools also wanted clinics at their sites.
But now Dr Cunningham is about to move south to finish her psychology studies at Royal Melbourne Hospital.
"When I came to Mount Isa I was doing that as a specialty training but the hospital doesn't have psychiatry training here," she said.
"In the whole time I've been here I've been able to get it accredited so I became a GP accidentally."
She said she kept her psychiatry currencies and every year she does her training.
"That's how I got my generalist, using my past psychiatry experience working in mental health," she said.
Chair RACGP Rural Dr Michael Clements congratulated Anna on her award.
""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," Dr Clements said.
"The wellbeing clinic was an innovative approach to address barriers to healthcare for local teachers."
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