Dr Austin Curtin on his last day at Lismore Base Hospital in 2018.
Dr Austin Curtin on his last day at Lismore Base Hospital in 2018.

Renowned doctor receives award for ‘significant service’

HIS name is synonymous with regional health in this area, and his commitment to expanding medical services has landed Dr Austin Curtin on this year’s Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Dr Curtin has been named a 2020 member of Order of Australia for his for significant service to medicine, and to health outcomes in regional communities.

Regional health was alway a priority for the surgeon, who decided to relocate from Sydney to the Northern Rivers in 1985.

“I thought there were more than enough doctors in Sydney and good doctors had things to offer region and rural communities,” Dr Curtin said.

Since then, Dr Curtin has worked on many health boards, including Ministerial Advisory Committee for Rural Health and the Rural Taskforce, to promote infrastructure and health training in the regions.

“We’ve been able to improve mental health care, improve cardiology improve renal dialysis, improved (the ability to care for) people closer to home,” he said.

“Once the infrastructure is there, you can improve the access to specialists, by encouraging them to move to regional areas.

“We’ve done that in Lismore, it’s a slow process because it takes 12-14 years to train someone in medicine. But it is happening, you see it in towns like Lismore where there’s opportunities for surgeons.

“We have medical students living and training in the country, they start their training and end their training in the country.

His work at Lismore Base Hospital, St Vincent's Private Hospital and his time during the Australian Army Reserves, has provided Dr Curtin the chance to see effective change within the rural health system.

And looking forward, he’s hopeful there’s a bright future for those who need medical assistance in regional communities, and for those who want to provide it.

“We’re slowly convincing the state government that rural communities need to be supported in much stronger ways, so it becomes a real viable option for live in the country,” Dr Curtin said.

“I’m more than happy to continue to advocate for rural life.”