A new era for rural

Rural Doctors Association Queensland president Konrad Kangru shares his story as a UQ alumnus studying rural medicine, and what the future holds for students.

When Konrad Kangru was accepted into medical school at The University of Queensland, he felt like he had been given a ‘second chance’ to become a doctor.

Konrad was part of the 1997 cohort, which heralded a new era for the discipline – when the traditional six-year degree was replaced with a four-year graduate program.

As a young boy growing up in Melbourne, Konrad dreamed of being a doctor in a rural practice.

He completed his undergraduate degree in applied science at Wagga Wagga in the New South Wales Riverina. He then enrolled with UQ to complete his medicine degree.

“UQ gave me a great opportunity,” Dr Kangru recalls. “It put a different perspective on a career I didn’t assume I’d have.

“I signed up for a rural scholarship because I decided if my skills were most valued in under-serviced communities of rural Queensland, then I was willing to be part of that movement.”

A  mock outback retrieval activity  at Mt Isa.

A  mock outback retrieval activity  at Mt Isa.

Dr Kangru spent the final year of his Queensland Health Rural Health Scholarship at the cane farming town of Proserpine, about 1000 kilometres north of Brisbane.

The idyllic lifestyle, climate and being at the gateway to the Whitsundays were all drawcards to the region.

But it’s the community atmosphere that has kept him there for the past 13 years.

After Cyclone Debbie hit in March, Dr Kangru says community spirit became even stronger.

“It was an experience that brought the town closer. We were without power here at the practice for a week, and we had to be resourceful in finding ways to cope.

"We’re still in the rebuilding phase, but thanks to the strength of ties in the community, we’re getting through that.”

The aftermath of Cyclone Debbie in north Queensland.

The aftermath of Cyclone Debbie in north Queensland.

Today, the UQ alumnus is President of the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) and believes a new era of rural medicine is here.

With the introduction of the Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway in 2007 and the announcement this year of the first National Rural Health Commissioner, Dr Kangru says the interest in rural medicine is the strongest it has been for decades.

And thanks to groups like the RDAQ, Queensland is at the forefront of rural healthcare, at a time when a new national model will be created.

Dr Kangru at his Proserpine practice.

Dr Kangru at his Proserpine practice.

This story is featured in the Summer 2017 edition of UQMedicine Magazine. View the latest edition here. Or to listen, watch, or read more stories from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine visit our content hub, MayneStream.