Dr Danielle Dries is a Kaurna Aboriginal woman from South Australia. After finishing year 12, she moved to Albury, NSW to study Physiotherapy, but after completing multiple rural placements and working as a Physiotherapist for a year, she decided to go down a different path and started studying medicine at the Australian National University in Canberra. She is now working in Moruya, NSW and has been chosen to represent her peers as an Ambassador at this year’s Rural Medicine Australia 2019 conference (RMA19).

What made you want to pursue a career as a rural GP?
After completing multiple rural placements throughout my physiotherapy degree and living in Albury on and off for 7 years, I fell in love with the country. I fell in love with the people, the community, the teamwork involving multiple different health professionals and disciplines, working to improve patient centred care and ultimately the health of the whole community. 

After working a year in Sydney as a Physiotherapist, I knew I wanted to live and work in rural and remote Australia.  I started looking for jobs where I could work in predominantly Aboriginal communities in remote locations, and I was disappointed there was not much work in the allied health sector. I had learnt of the higher rates of chronic diseases in rural and remote Australia, and I had also learnt practicing as a physio as well as seeing in my own family how much allied health services can benefit people living with chronic disease.  I wanted to promote allied health as a service that is needed to improve both the prevention and management of chronic diseases.  So, I decided I could try to promote allied health by being a doctor, working in the area, promoting it among colleagues as well as policy makers, and government stakeholders.

Why did you choose to train with ACRRM?
When I first heard of ACRRM I pretty much knew it was the pathway for me as I wanted to pursue work in rural and remote areas. However, I did get pulled and swayed along the way. I loved my surgical terms and thought of becoming a Surgeon, I worked with amazing consultants in Gastroenterology and Emergency Medicine and considered becoming an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. The motivation always came back to one question, where can I have the greatest impact on my community?  And, I also figured if I love doing everything, then being a generalist would be the perfect job for me.  After being a member of the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) for several years, I also found that ACRRM had a very similar family “vibe” a connection with people who have similar values and beliefs, and I found the college fun and exciting to be part of.

What are some things you might normally do in a day/week as a rural generalist?
I have just moved to Moruya to work in a General Practice for the first term after leaving the hospital training.  It was pretty daunting at first, having my name on the door and seeing/treating people by myself, but I am starting to get settled. I love that every week I will see young babies through to elderly people, I have the privilege to help someone through their pregnancy, the most difficult moments in their life in mental health, as well as doing some minor procedures. There is always something new each week with rural general practice being so broad. I find it a real privilege to listen to the stories of where people come from and how they got to that moment in my room.

Do you have any career highlights so far?
I have met some incredibly resilient people who have shared with me their stories and journeys so far in their health. Some of my most cherishing moments has been the unique journeys at the end of a life. It’s a difficult time for a person and their family, and it is so special that this is something shared with a doctor who they trust to respect their last wishes.

Do you have a dream place you’d like to work as a rural or remote GP?
I have always been flexible in where I could live and work, moving around my whole life I have learnt to always adapt and be mouldable to my environment.  I have a partner who works as a diplomat, so I would love to work all over the world and experience multiple different environments.  My partner is both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and I would also love to spend some time working up in the Torres Straits.

What do you hope to do in the future? 
Ultimately, I would love to see improved health outcomes for my people and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. I hope to see my children live and grow in a community where they have equality in health care and opportunity.  I would love to see a much larger number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the health workforce, currently Indigenous Australians make up less than 0.5% of Medical practitioners registered in Australia.

I also really hope to see a strong rural generalist pathway and community, I know the government has recently announced in the budget a commitment to building a national rural generalist pathway.  I would love to see this is extended to allied health for holistic health services.

What are you most looking forward to at RMA19?
I am really looking forward to seeing some old friends, making some new ones and hearing from the many inspirational speakers.  I have always found going to RMA motivates me to do more and to be better.

Do you have any advice for those who might be attending their first conference?
I still remember the first conference I attended, I was so inspired by so many people who share similar values and interests to myself.  My advice would be to engage and network with those that inspire you, people who share your passion, and try to soak up as much of the excitement and enthusiasm as you possibly can.  We are carried by the spirits of the elders that have walked before us and stand on the shoulders of those who have already fought many battles.