RURAL doctors are unsung heroes compared with their city counterparts, says Border specialist obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Pieter Mourik.
Dr Mourik is perhaps best known as the founder of a national specialist obstetricians locum scheme and for his promotion of a scholarship program to support Border students studying medicine.
The specialist, who first came to the Border region in 1979, is today made a member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday honours list.
“I am thrilled and delighted but I accept this award on behalf of all rural doctors in Australia, many of whom would also be worthwhile recipients but are the unsung heroes in terms of the promotion of their standing and their commitment to their patients,” Dr Mourik said.
He was a 16-year-old when he completed his secondary education and took a year off before beginning his medical studies at university.
“I went to work on a farm at Bruarong, for a friend of my mother and I loved it,” he said.
“But when I was a medical student and each region of Victoria was being compared, the North East was the worst in the state for the provision of care.”
Dr Mourik said he was the first specialist obstetrician-gynaecologist in the North East at a time when state boundaries stood strong and NSW specialists didn’t work in Victoria.
He practised on his own for 10 years before he was joined by John Salmon and later two other specialists who had been their registrars.
While Dr Mourik has retired from full-time practice, he continues to teach women’s health as an associate professor at the Albury- Wodonga campus of the University of NSW rural clinical school.
In 2010, he was named the rural doctor of the year by the Rural Doctors Association of Australia and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.
He was a founding member of the Border medical recruitment taskforce and the scholarship fund committee of the Border Medical Association.
Dr Mourik said the provision of maternity care in regional areas has always been an important keystone of rural medical services.
“If maternity falls over, other specialists will leave and if you can improve the provision of quality maternity care, other specialists will come,” he said.
Since 2006, Dr Mourik has served as an auditor of maternity services on behalf of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, where he remains a foundation fellow.
“I find I am absolutely delighted with the standard of care. I am deeply impressed and it’s not just the specialists; it’s the GPs, the midwives, the allied health professionals who are working together,” he said.
“In rural areas we have 10 per cent of the obstetrician and gynaecologist specialists who look after 30 per cent of the population, backed up by GPs.
“The cornerstone of rural obstetrics is the GP and we are there to support them.”