Dr Allison Hempenstall – a GP Registrar from Thursday Island, 1000 kilometres north of Cairns - has received the ACRRM-RDAA Rural Registrar of the Year Award 2019 for her dedication to healthcare provision in the Torres Straits and her commitment to public health.

Dr Hempenstall provides primary and emergency care to the Torres Strait Islander community across remote islands in the Torres Straits.

She first arrived on Thursday Island as an enthusiastic Resident Medical Officer in 2016. She rapidly progressed to becoming a confident and capable medical colleague, and returned as a Registrar with the Generalist Medical Training program in 2018.

Her friendly and inclusive demeanour has held her in high regard with her peers, patients and nursing colleagues, and she has become an ever-increasing mainstay of the local primary healthcare system. She has continued to grow her patient profile, and has demonstrated significant leadership skills, with her recommendations to peers and other staff being highly valued.

Dr Hempenstall is passionate about public health and tropical medicine, and is dedicated to Indigenous health in an effort to Close the Gap. This year she secured over $80,000 in research funding to support the full-time employment of an Indigenous Research Officer, building local research capacity in the Torres Strait.

She is principal investigator of the 'Cellulitis Outpatient Antibiotics Study in the Torres’, a year-long study on skin infections and their treatment in the Torres Straits. She is also a co-investigator on the Rapid Acute Paediatric Infection Diagnosis in Sepsis (RAPIDS) study, and the Characterising Hepatitis B Molecular Epidemiology in Far North Queensland (CHARM) study aiming to improve sepsis and hepatitis B management in the Torres Straits.

Dr Hempenstall is also committed to health promotion and last year organised ‘Deadly Health Jobs’, a health careers promotional event inspiring the next generation of Indigenous health professionals. This year, she and the local community organised a health promotional event for 50 Torres Strait Islander children to learn about healthy skin through art and hip-hop music (https://vimeo.com/357441458).

Dr Hempenstall has been a valued member of the ACRRM Registrar Committee for the past two years and is the current Chair. She is committed to improving the training experience for ACRRM registrars across the country. Her love for medical education extends beyond ACRRM and she is currently a Medical Educator for James Cook University.

ACRRM President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said: “It is wonderful to see Allison being recognised for the immense commitment she has made not only to her local community, but also to the profession of Rural Medicine. She has given a substantial amount of time in representing the interests and needs of rural GP registrars through ACRRM, and to promoting Rural Medicine as a rewarding career choice. We warmly commend Allison on receiving this Award.”

RDAA President, Dr John Hall, said: “Allison’s dedication to the communities of the Torres Straits, and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, is truly inspiring. While the medical care she is providing on Thursday Island is bringing immediate benefits for the local community, her commitment to public health research has real potential to benefit many generations into the future. She is a very deserving recipient of this year’s Award.”

Dr Hempenstall said: “I am grateful for the recognition I have received for my work, because I am very sure that every other nominee for this Award was just as deserving. I sincerely thank everyone who has provided me with mentorship, education and care throughout my registrar training journey. It has only been with the support of my ACRRM family and the community in the Torres Straits that I am privileged to have received this Award.”

Dr Hempenstall has a long-term career goal to move into public health with a particular focus on global primary care and sustainable community-driven models of healthcare. However, for the time being she feels privileged to continue serving the Torres Strait Islander community.

“The people of the Torres Straits have shown me the importance of community, family, culture and land – a gift that I will forever be grateful for.”

Outside Medicine, Dr Hempenstall enjoys travelling, diving, painting, and spending time with friends and family.

A high resolution photo of Dr Hempenstall is available here:

A high resolution photo of Dr Hempenstall at last night’s gala dinner, with RDAA President Dr John Hall (far left in photo) and ACRRM President Dr Ewen McPhee (far right in photo) is available here:

Available for interview:
Dr Allison Hempenstall
RDAA President, Dr John Hall
ACRRM President, Dr Ewen McPhee

Media contacts:
Patrick Daley (RDAA) on 0408 004 890
Petrina Smith (ACRRM) on 0414 820 847