Featured Doctor

CHATER, A/Prof Alan Bruce

Australia - Chair WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice

Bruce took over as Chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WWPRP) after many years as its secretary, in October 2019.

What work do you do now?

I run a rural hospital and own and run a private clinic in the small rural town of Theodore. Theodore lies 600km (about a day’s drive) from the state capital Brisbane and about 220km from the nearest large hospital with a CT. My friends to the west say I am on the urban fringe!

I delivered babies for 38 years and did abdominal surgery for 30 years. With a long term doctor (our first registrar), two registrars, an intern and two medical students we run a comprehensive procedural integrated practice that covers emergencies and hospital inpatients through to chronic disease. We have Point of Care testing, other clinical investigations, and our own ultrasound and x-ray. Like the two family doctor brothers that founded the Mayo clinic we believe in being the one stop shop that will solve our patients complex presentations. We are not afraid of knowing our patients well and enjoy how their life stories inform us in adding humanity into this decision making

Other interesting things you have done?

I’m a generalist and love dabbling in lots of things both at work and home, exploring interesting places and meeting interesting people when travelling rather than just seeing the sights. I love seeing and experiencing where other rural doctors work.

I am a starter of things and was the founding convenor of the Rural Doctors Associations of Queensland and Australia, involved in setting up the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM), later its President;  was founding chair of the National Rural health Alliance, was first chair of the Queensland State-Wide Rural and Remote Clinical Network; and the first head of a Department of Rural and Remote Medicine – at the University of Queensland. I sit on the Australian Independent Hospital Pricing Authority. I have been secretary of the WWPRP from its inauguration until taking over as President in October 2019.

What do you hope to achieve as WWPRP chair?

I want to see rural areas recognised for what they are – wonderful places to live and work.

Having said that I am fully aware of the challenges, especially in less well developed countries wrt the living conditions, family and children’s educational opportunities. We need rural generalist family doctors able to work for part of their careers in a professionally and personally fulfilling way in these settings. The pathway to rural practice can be very vulnerable and I want to strengthen and improve it so that it has no unnecessary blocks and leaks. I want to see this happen for especially our colleagues in Low and Middle income Countries (LMIC) and our young doctors through our young doctor group Rural Seeds.

Our top priorities at present, as voted by our Council of 60 from all around the world are:
-Rural training pathways/pipelines - key elements and issues
-Learning in Rural settings
-Supporting young health professionals
-Rural workforce
-Engaging communities
-Migration, population dynamics and rural health
-Rural effects of climate change
-High performing rural teams
-Fit for Purpose Rural Workforce design – getting the balance right
-Digital health AI and telehealth
-Low resource environments
-Remote - Low and middle income countries
-Family Medicine – Role in Rural
-Rural Generalist Family Care - primary care or broader
-E-stablishing Family Medicine in Low and Middle income countries

Your interests at work and privately?

My lovely wife Anne and I have four fantastic sons who are now adult and chasing their own dreams.
I love to relax around our pool in the country quiet.
I love spending time with our grandchildren.

Our practice is an exemplar of what can be done in a rural town and I love working there and sharing my experience with the young doctors. They too teach me and keep me honest in my practice.
I love making a visible difference to lives of the people I know by name.
I love to get out on our local river with others – be it on our jet ski or our son’s boat and enjoy water skiing and snow skiing.
I love walking in the countryside.

As one of our registrars once said “We are very lucky to be the live in fly out country service” – able to serve a community but also take on a state, national and international role