Professor Nicky Hudson is Director of the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health (UONDRH). Operating from Tamworth, Taree, Armidale and Moree, the UONDRH focuses on student placements and learning, community projects and research into rural health issues.
On 30 July 2014, Nicky presented the New Professors Talk, titled Healthcare access for rural communities: everyone’s business.
Get to know Nicky Hudson, as she answers our questions on Engage this week.
Tell us about your background, including what drew you into medicine, particularly rural health?
I was born in Perth, Western Australia and grew up there. After completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Western Australia, I went to live in Canada for with my husband for four and a half years, completing a Masters of Science (Microbiology) at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
After then living in Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, and Southampton in the UK, we returned to Adelaide where we schooled our four children and I completed a medical degree (BMBS) at Flinders University. I then worked in general practice, in indigenous and remote health with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in South Australia.
My academic career has included senior roles in innovation and reform in medical education at the University of Adelaide, Peninsula Medical School in south west England and the University of Wollongong in NSW. I have been in the New England region since February, 2012 starting in Tamworth in my current role in March, 2013.
My passion for rural health was fostered by my life and work experiences in rural and remote Australia. As a senior medical student, my rural term in Ceduna was a highlight of my medical course and I went back there as a doctor with RFDS. As an Associate Dean at the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Wollongong, I established ten teaching and learning hubs in regional, rural and remote NSW and felt committed to contributing to the healthcare needs of these communities. I came to Tamworth with that same commitment to rural health professional education (not just medical education).
What are you passionate about? Can others in the community get involved?
I am passionate about equity so am keen to improve access to health care for rural communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The University of Newcastle has graduated many of the Indigenous doctors in Australia today and that should be beneficial in terms of provision of culturally appropriate care. Everyone in the community can contribute to recruiting and retaining health workforce by embracing workers and their families in the community; by willingness to have students involved in their health care; and by partnership with the University in local education, research and infrastructure projects.
What’s been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
The passion for rural health is shared by my colleagues in the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health and that both major political parties in Australia have shared that commitment with funding for rural Clinical Schools and University Departments of Rural Health. It is not really unexpected but good to have that support, as well as appreciation from rural communities.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
I draw on teams of people for inspiration–I like working in collaborations comprising a diverse range of enthusiastic and committed people (whether community members or academic or clinical colleagues). I mean diversity in terms of skills and approaches, but also in relation to disciplines, age and experience.
What’s been your proudest achievement to date?
I am proud of the four wonderful ‘children’ that my husband and I have raised. They are lovely caring people, are doing a range of interesting things and thus contributing to society in different ways. I am also proud of the work that I have done in medical education and rural health, especially playing a major role in establishing the innovative Graduate School of Medicine with colleagues in Wollongong.
What would be your dream project?
Gaining significant funding to conduct a longitudinal collaborative project to improve access to healthcare for rural and indigenous communities.
What do you look forward to doing most in Tamworth in winter?
I really like the sunny days with a big blue sky in the winter in Tamworth. It is good for walking or bike riding.
That is difficult as it is hot in Tamworth and far from the sea. I love the beach and ocean, thus I do like visiting Newcastle in the summer months. Getting into the sea is invigorating for me! The country music festival is a big summer attraction in Tamworth for many people but I am not really a fan of country music
Can you name a local hero?
While not strictly from Tamworth, I recently learned about Len Waters, from Boomi in Northern NSW at the NAIDOC celebrations in Tamworth to recognise the war service of Indigenous Australians. He was the uncle of a local Aboriginal elder, also called Len Waters, and was the first Indigenous Australian to serve as a fighter pilot in the RAAF in World War II. Both Len Water Senior and his brother, the father of our local elder Len Waters, are now getting recognition of their service for Australia. Len gave a great talk at the flag raising ceremony talking about his Father’s and Uncle’s life and service.
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Tamworth?
I don’t eat out a lot in Tamworth but recently had a good meal at the new Sushi Train with family visiting in Tamworth. My husband is an excellent cook so tend to entertain at home with friends.
Best place to getaway to?
To the coast via the dividing range, as the country in the Barrington Tops near Gloucester is really scenic. I do like to get away to Rottnest Island off the coast of Perth with family or friends, as it has many memories of my youth in the West and the sea is great for swimming.
Your #1 Tamworth insiders tip?
Tamworth and the surrounding region in New England is lovely country and a great place to explore the ‘great outdoors’.