A Charles Sturt podiatry graduate has been honoured with an award that acknowledges excellence and ongoing passion for rural health under the Victorian Rural Health Awards.
The recipient, Ms Jess Barton, is from a small country town in the Alpine Shire called Running Creek.
Ms Barton received the Outstanding Contribution by a Rising Star Award which recognises a junior health professional who has shown a true passion for rural health and is intent on dedicating their career to rural communities.
Ms Barton studied a Bachelor of Podiatric Medicine in the Charles Sturt School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sports Sciences in Albury-Wodonga. After graduation, she accepted a role as the sole podiatrist in a rural hospital at Corryong in Victoria.
Ms Barton said, “I had to jump in the deep end, career-wise, to help individuals in the local community.
“It was daunting and challenging being the only podiatrist at the hospital, immediately after graduation. Luckily, I was able to build a strong rapport with my patients and improve their overall foot and health outcomes.
“I utilised my networks drawing upon the expertise of external podiatrists to expand my knowledge base.”
Associate Professor in Podiatry and Associate Head of School (Learning and Teaching) in the Charles Sturt School of Allied Health, Exercise and Sports Sciences Caroline Robinson congratulated Ms Barton on receiving the award, noting the need for more podiatrists in rural areas.
“The number of podiatry enrolments and graduates has been declining over the past five years, across Australia,” Professor Robinson said.
“This creates even bigger challenges with respect to the relative shortfall of podiatrists employed in regional Australia, given the high demand from industry in both public and private healthcare sectors.”
Professor Robinson said roughly 94 per cent of the podiatry workforce works in either major cities or inner regional locations, and Charles Sturt’s hands-on model for undergraduate study is assisting to produce job-ready graduates on completion.
“Charles Sturt podiatry students work in the on-campus clinic from their first year of study, gaining important experience in clinical podiatry and providing an essential health service to the local community in the Albury-Wodonga region,” she said.
“In second and third year, podiatry students complete one-week clinical placements in private practice and work under supervision in the on-campus clinic.
“In the final year, podiatry students work under supervision to complete two eight-week public health placements at external sites and two eight-week placements in the on-campus clinic,” Professor Robinson said.
Since the Bachelor of Podiatric Medicine commenced in 2000 approximately 500 students have graduated from Charles Sturt.
Approximately 70 per cent of the graduates are employed in regional locations.