Cowra GP Dr Louise Baker receives highest rural doctor award

 Dr Louise Baker. Photo: Supplied.

Dr Louise Baker. Photo: Supplied.

After more than 30 years of serving the community, a western NSW GP has received the highest accolade in the rural doctor field.

Cowra GP Obstetrician Dr Louise Baker recently received the prestigious ACRRM-RDAA Peter Graham ‘Cohuna’ Award for 2018.

The Peter Graham ‘Cohuna’ Award is the highest honour that can be bestowed by the rural doctor community, and is awarded jointly by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) in recognition of service of the highest order over many decades.

The award was established several years ago in honour of the late Dr Peter Graham, who served the community of Cohuna on the Murray River in Victoria for 48 years.

It was presented on Friday, October 26 at a gala dinner of the joint annual conference of ACRRM and RDAA, Rural Medicine Australia 2018 (RMA18), currently being held in Darwin.

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Dr Baker said she feels very humbled to receive the Award.

“I always thought I'd either be a GP or an obstetrician, so working as a GP Obstetrician has been the ideal mix,” she said.

“I love working with kids and elderly people and I love Aboriginal health – and working as a Rural Generalist doctor has enabled me to do all these things and more.

Raised in the rural NSW town of Cooma (where her father worked as the local postmaster) and then Mittagong in the NSW Southern Highlands, Louise moved to Cowra after meeting her future husband, Steven, a farmer.

They have five adult children.

She was initially inspired to consider Rural Medicine as a career while baby-sitting as a school student for a local Cooma doctor, and relaying messages to him when the hospital required his attendance to help with imminent births.

Dr Baker also had an older sister who worked as a nurse.

A sixth month term in the Family Medicine Program at Cowra in 1989 quickly turned into a long-standing medical career at Cowra as a GP Obstetrician, interspersed with work as a locum GP and setting up and then holding various roles (including Executive Director) with the Central West Division of General Practice.

ACRRM President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said Dr Baker is a truly inspirational rural doctor, who has provided enormous service to the Cowra community and to rural medicine as a whole over many years.

"She has provided cradle to grave care across generations of Cowra families, including significant and ongoing medical service to the Aboriginal community of Cowra, with whom she remains close after delivering many of the community’s babies,” Dr McPhee said.

"Louise has also been at the forefront of training and mentoring countless medical students on placement from the ANU Medical School at her group practice. In doing so, she has helped put Cowra on the map in terms of it being a great location to work as a rural doctor.”

RDAA President, Dr Adam Coltzau, said Dr Baker has made an enormous contribution in the push to boost the future rural doctor workforce in NSW and for the continuation of GP procedural training in NSW.

“She has served on the Management Committee of RDANSW for 8 years, has served on numerous other committees, and is a wonderful role model for young doctors and countless medical students,” Dr Coltzau said.

“In addition to her ANU medical students, she has taken GP Registrars into her practice for many years, and has mentored several second year medical students who were recipients of The Land Rural Medical Scholarship.