Lesbian health advocate Dr Adele van der Merwe has won the Rural Registrar of the Year award.
The Australian Lesbian Medical Association (ALMA) co-convenor was awarded the title after a year-long stint in the northwest Victorian town of Charlton during the time floods greatly affected the area.
Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) president Dr Jeff Ayton said van der Merwe had made a lasting impression, and said the rural doctor had shown dedication and proved knowledgable in her field.
“While Adele was based in Charlton the town was flooded twice,” Ayton said.
“Both times Adele demonstrated her commitment and support for the community, continuing to provide much needed care at all hours and in all circumstances through these times of crisis.
“The overwhelming support for her nomination we received from her colleagues in Charlton demonstrated the impact she made during her time there.”
Rural Doctors Association of Australia president Dr Paul Mara said van der Merwe’s willingness to go beyond the call of duty saw her win the award.
“During Adele’s year of placement in Charlton, despite her own accommodation being flooded out twice, [she] found her own temporary accommodation with a relative in a nearby town and continued her service to the community,” Mara said.
“She also provided much needed ‘roadside’ medical care at the town’s evacuation point and later volunteered to work in the temporary medical facility … even after her tenure in Charlton had finished, driving 180kms to get there on her day off.”
South African-born van der Merwe said she was humbled to be nominated for the award.
“The people of Charlton are still suffering the devastation of having lost homes, pets, livestock, income, their hospital, aged-care facility and medical clinic,” she said.
“Despite all this, they have maintained their community spirit, their resilience and that great country sense of humour.”
Van der Merwe is a vocal lesbian health advocate and is behind the establishment of DocLIST, a nationwide online resource for lesbian and bisexual women looking for inclusive doctors and specialists.