As voting was getting under way in ACRRM’s first presidential election this month, candidate Dr Michael Beckoff was preparing to board a private jet as a tour doctor for a large group travelling around South America.
Until 2011, the veteran generalist GP practised at Murray Bridge in South Australia specialising in advanced obstetrics, surgery, emergency medicine, and hospital medicine with additional expertise in mental health and sexual therapy.
Since stepping back from full-time practice, Dr Beckoff also finds “being a rural generalist stands you in good stead” on locum placements in rural and remote parts of Australia.
The last baby he delivered was at a clinic in Fitzroy Crossing, Western Australia, which lacked a birthing unit and had a patient turn up too late to make a flight to hospital in Broome.
“There were four doctors there, all of us around the same age,” the self-described PGY43 says. “I was the only one with any recent obstetric experience. They got me out of bed to deliver the baby and all went well. That’s the beauty of having a rural generalist around.”
If elected as ACRRM president, Dr Beckoff says he would bring a more corporate aspect to the college.
He is currently chair of the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency SA, chair of the Murray-Mallee GP Network and a board director of Health Direct Australia, and is involved in Country Health SA as a clinical adviser. He also chairs ACRRM’s finance, audit and risk committee.
Dr Beckoff went into medical studies on the rebound from a teaching scholarship, but became an enthusiastic educator during his 33 years in general practice.
“At Murray Bridge we always had a very strong emphasis on teaching students, interns and registrars. I was always very heavily involved in teaching.”
One goal he would take on is extending ACRRM’s national footprint.
“We’ve got an increasing membership base, our financial position is strong. I think we need to grow more outside of Queensland. I’d like to see some of the other states become more positive in terms of having an ACRRM presence.”
In this regard, Dr Beckoff says he took some comfort recently while interviewing candidates for 2019 AGPT placements under ACRRM’s charge.
“It was really gratifying. There were significantly more candidates than there were places.”
The go-ahead for the National Rural Generalist Program marks an important step in cementing ACRRM’s original purpose, to train rural generalists who can work anywhere in Australia and other countries where the FACRRM is recognised.
But uneven progress across the states poses a challenge for the national program, Dr Beckoff says.
“In Queensland, there’s no issue, but in the other states, certainly in my home state, there are moves happening, but we need to back them up with more funding.”
ACRRM and the RACGP are working with National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Paul Worley to finalise national training pathways for the program by next year.
Dr Beckoff supports the broadening of the generalist skill-set, which began with rural GPs providing obstetrics, surgery, anaesthetics and emergency medicine.
“There are lots of non-procedural areas that need to be supported in this whole process.
“We’ve got a system at the moment where proceduralists can get a subsidy for their further education. We need to extend that to people who provide mental health, palliative care or other non-procedural skills.”