Campbelltown medical student wins bursary to rural clinic

Jean-Baptiste Philibert has lived in such exotic locales as France and South Africa, but it's the rural lifestyle that has captured the medical student's heart.

The Campbelltown resident and Western Sydney University medical student has just won a bursary from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) to the remote NSW town of Warialda, where he will pick up valuable experience in rural practice.

Mr Philibert, who moved to Australia 14 years ago and settled in Perth at age 16, said he loved the variety of work afforded to GPs in remote areas, and he was attracted to how much of an impact they could have on rural communities.

He said he was honoured to receive the bursary.

"I was very excited when I found out," the 30-year-old said.

"These things take time to award and I applied months ago, so it was a surprise.

"I've always been interested in rural and remote practice, and I went to the Northern Territory on placement last year [as part of the John Flynn Scholarship]. I'm just passionate about going back out to remote communities as soon as I can."

Mr Philibert, who took up medicine as a mature-age student, said he'd done some work in rural WA, and his family were from a remote French town, so never saw himself living his life in a city.

"I always just really enjoyed the rural lifestyle, I think the people are beautiful and life is so different from the city," he said.

"The work is also more interesting, medically speaking, and there is more of a need for doctors out there.

"I've been fortunate to visit a few places already, and I'll be spending a year in Bathurst on placement as well, which I'm very keen on doing."

Mr Philibert said he hoped more people would consider careers in rural areas.

"I think regional, rural and remote communities have so much to offer, so much lifestyle, to the millennial generation, and they are the areas of greatest need in our country," he said.

"It's not just medical need either.

"I think the pandemic has demonstrated that they can be some of the safest places in our country too.

"Hopefully initiatives to support rural students like the ones I have received will go a long way to supporting future young professionals to settle out there and bridge the gap."

RACGP Rural chair Dr Michael Clements congratulated Mr Philibert on his award.

"It is great to see a medical student like Jean-Baptiste Philibert with such passion for remote general practice," he said.

"As a rural GP and practice owner, I know what it is that draws GPs to train and practice in rural and remote Australia.

"Rural and remote communities tend to rely on their GPs for much of their healthcare needs. This means there is great variety for GPs working in these communities; you could be providing emergency care one moment, and helping someone with a chronic condition the next.

"The connection to community is another great aspect of rural general practice. A rural GP gets to know their patients and their families, and you really get to see the value of your work as a GP - you're not just helping people when they're sick, you're also helping them to stay well, benefiting the whole community.

"I wish Jean-Baptiste all the best in his future career, and encourage him to keep doing all he can to increase his experience and skills in general practice so he provide the highest quality care to his patients."

Mr Philibert encouraged anyone thinking of making a change to a medical career to stick with it and enjoy the personal satisfaction of a career helping people.

"I was really motivated and keen to get started, and I had to stick with it because I made sacrifices like selling my house," he said.

"It was a big life decision to make at 29, but it's such and interesting career and I'm grateful every day to be able to do something interesting and needed, and travel to such incredible places.

"The hardest part is simply making the decision and knowing why you want to do it.

"I think starting in my 20s is actually really helpful, because you've got some life experience, which is helpful in such a tough profession where you have to make tough decisions."