Featured Doctor

COUPER, Prof Ian: Past Chair Working Party on Rural Practice

South Africa

Professor Ian Couper BA (Wits), MBBCh (Wits), MFamMed (Medunsa), FCFP (SA) is Principal Specialist in Rural Medicine, North West Provincial Department of Health, South Africa, and Professor of Rural Health at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg. He is director of the Wits Centre for Rural Health, which was launched in 2009, and head of family medicine and rural health in the North West Province Department of Health, South Africa. His areas of activity are in health service development, supporting rural students, undergraduate and postgraduate education, research and advocacy. These interests were nurtured during nine years spent in a rural district hospital in northern KwaZulu-Natal province, on the border with Mozambique. near Kosi Bay.

His clinical work involves visiting rural primary care clinics and working with nurse practitioners in local communities near his home outside Johannesburg in the North-West Province. He was the first chair of rural health in Africa, being appointed in 2002. Among his achievements, he lists that he set up a scholarship program, in 2003, called the “Wits initiative for rural health education”, which is a scholarship scheme for rural students doing health science training (in any health profession) and they now have 60 students in the program, across three universities, with their first ten graduates being a mix of medical, pharmacy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy graduates.

Within the traditional medical school program at Wits, he has been running a six week program for final year students exposing them to primary care in peri-urban and rural areas – a compulsory a rotation for all final year students. Prof Couper’s department leads the program but seven other departments of specialised medicine are also involved. They have also been conducting a public health masters program (MPH) in field of rural health since last year.

Prof Couper was active in the formation of the Rural Doctors Association of Southern Africa (RuDASA) more than 12 years ago, and now serves as editor of the African section of the international journal Rural and Remote Health. He has held visiting appointments at various Australian Universities: Monash, Flinders and an adjunct appointment at James Cook University.
Professor Ian Couper (South Africa)

WONCA working party

Prof Couper has chaired of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WONCA WPRP), since 2007. He is the third chair of this working party, following after Roger Strasser and Jim Rourke. He has attended all ten WONCA rural health conferences, and has been involved with the working party since 1999. He believes the working party comprises a really committed group of people, who are trying to make a difference in rural health care. As people understanding what is happening on the ground and trying to impact on that, over the years, they have had a few significant achievements. These include policy documents approved by WONCA Executive and the Melbourne manifesto. In organising WONCA rural conferences and post- conferences, the WONCA WPRP aims to have a positive effect on whatever place they are in, and as such, locations are strategically chosen strategically.


Ian is married to Jacqui, who is an occupational therapist with a special interest is early intervention for kids under three. They have three sons, ranging in age from 8 to 20. This year, with his two elder sons Ian swam, for the 6th time, a one mile open water swimming event. He has also cycled in a 100km race three times with his sons. Ian enjoys being in nature in a nearby game reserve, for game viewing and bird watching. His major form of relaxation is reading thriller novels.