New National Rural Health Commissioner appointed

Australia has a new National Rural Health Commissioner following the appointment of Professor Jenny May AM, currently the Director of the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health based in Tamworth.

Professor May has more than 35 years’ experience as a GP in rural, regional and remote WA, NT and NSW, as well as in rural Canada. She has also spent 20 years in health education, teaching medical, nursing and allied health students, and in 2016 received the Order of Australia for her service.

Professor May said she is excited about the opportunity to take her focus and commitment to the national level, saying that “My mantra is focused on how we ‘grow, train, retain’ health students rurally so they stay and become part of the health community in the rural areas where they’re needed most”.

Professor May, who will replace the outgoing commissioner, Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart, will commence in the role on 2 September 2024 (with her first term due to end in June 2026).

An acting Commissioner will be appointed for the period between July and September 2024.

“The Government welcomes the appointment of Professor Jenny May to the role of National Rural Health Commissioner,” said the federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler.

“Jenny’s experience, expertise and drive will help continue the reforms necessary to build better models of care suited to the needs of people living outside of our cities.

“On behalf of the Government I thank outgoing commissioner, Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart, for her work to make sure the voices of rural, regional and remote Australians were amplified and listened to when it comes to their health services.”

“Healthcare leaders such as those in role of the National Rural Health Commissioner are pivotal in influencing positive outcomes for communities and the profession,” said Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) President, Associate Professor Dan Halliday.

“ACRRM looks forward to developing a strong working relationship with Prof May to enable us to meet our goals.”

Associate Professor Halliday said Professor May’s background and work on researching workforce distribution and retention, “demonstrates her experience and competence to inform policy aimed at developing and maintaining a sustainable rural health workforce”.

“We also commend Adj Prof Ruth Stewart for her outstanding work since her appointment in 2020,” added Halliday.

“Her collaboration and contributions have enhanced and empowered rural, remote and First Nations communities.”

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