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>>>Faces of Rural Generalism | Dr Rebekah (Bek) Adams

Faces of Rural Generalism | Dr Rebekah (Bek) Adams

Senior Medical Officer | Kingaroy Hospital (Wakka Wakka Country) and Ripley Satellite Hospital (Yagara Country)

Dr Bek Adams is a Rural Generalist with advanced skills in obstetrics and gynaecology, living and working in South East Queensland. Although Bek didn’t grow up rurally, she wanted to pursue a type of medicine that would give her family flexibility. Rural generalism piqued her interest and her decision was solidified after attending a presentation at UQ by the Rural Generalist legend himself, Dr Bruce Chater.

Her decision to journey into rural generalism has provided Bek with the flexibility and career satisfaction she had hoped for. “As I got into it, the more I realised it aligned clinically with the type of medicine I enjoyed – the cradle to grave type medicine – but that was more of a secondary thing. It was rural generalism that I fell in love with.”

In conjunction with her role as a Rural Generalist, Bek has long been a strong voice and advocate for sustainability in medicine. “I have always been interested in our environments and their health. As I’ve grown and changed in life, that interest has continued and extended across other areas of my life. I think as humans, we sometimes forget that we are animals. Our existence relies upon clean water, fresh air, and nourishing food. For humans to thrive, we must rely upon connection and community. None of us are going to be well if we continue to ignore the fact that our environment is not well. The root cause of that is us, humans, and our behaviours. I don’t think any good doctor, in good conscious, could ignore the climate crisis”.

Her concern for environmental health was something Bek had to consider before commencing her journey into motherhood.

“All I have ever truly wanted from life was to become a mother, however I questioned very deliberately if I would make that choice. In this current environmental, cultural and political climate, I have a lot of fear around what world I have birthed my child into. Ultimately, I chose to be optimistic for the future. For me that means also embracing my responsibility to our communities and ecosystems so all creatures can live in the healthiest and happiest world we can. I chose as much as I can not to be complicit in the ongoing violations of our earth, and to actively advocate for a different path”.

It was during Bek’s Rural Generalist training that her interest was sharpened, and she found that the skills she was developing for work were actually helping her tackle wider sustainability problems; she was required to adapt to an evolving situation with limited resources and sometimes limited information.

“Rural generalism parallels quite well with sustainability in medicine and the climate crisis. We don’t know all the answers or which of our interventions are going to (or will) help change the direction of our climate emergency, but we need to be doing something and trying things with the best intentions and the best evidence we’ve got. As Rural Generalists, we’re very good at that. I think it’s our professional responsibility, and moral responsibility as humans, to address it in every way we can.”

Bek’s passion has driven her to be involved in the writing of environmental policy statements for different organisations and workplaces and to presenting at the 2021 Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) conference on ‘Sustainability in Medicine’. Bek was a former Chair of the Kingaroy Hospital Greener Hospital Committee (2020 – 2022) which implemented the installation of PVC recycling across the hospital, removal of single use plastics, and the design of the Kingaroy community vegetable garden. Medical students would share around the baton of “watering duties” between one another, and staff members contributed seedlings from their own gardens to share.

Bek highlights that we can all make a personal contribution without it being onerous. “You don’t want people to be suffering, you want them to be engaged in the change and enjoy the process. It needs to ignite a fire in everyone’s hearts, or multiple people, to take it in their own direction”.

“We need systemic change on all levels for us to live healthy, happy lives, and that most definitely includes our environment. Rural Generalists are uniquely positioned within the medical community to be at the forefront. We are prominent members of our communities and people are looking to us to model behaviour. That’s not a comfortable thing for us, but it’s something we have to recognise happens. I’d like to think we can move toward modeling behaviour for people who don’t have the same exposure and information about what the climate emergency means.”

Bek urges Rural Generalists to start making changes personally and professionally. “Consciously think about the tools and equipment you use when setting up for medical procedures – can you have them in the room unopened and simply open when required? Is there a different length suture you can use if you always need two? We, as doctors, request a lot of resources from those around us, so being prepared and thinking before you request resources can make a big difference. Think twice before printing resources. When you make sustainable choices for the environment, it can also have a financial benefit for practices or health services and reduce wastage. Be part of positive change.”

“Personally, we can be more environmentally conscious by the type of clothes we wear, how we hunt and gather food, the types of food we eat, family values on ‘Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Compost and Recycle’, investing in greener energy in the home, how we invest our money, and an electric vehicle/walking/cycling/public transport for getting around”.

As for Bek, her life goal is to be a lived example for her daughter so she can grow to have a healthy respect and care for all living creatures, our land, and waterways. “I want to work towards a beautiful future where humans will live once again connected and flourishing within our environments”.

Recommended websites:

Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA)

Global Green and Health Hospitals

Feb 28th 2024| Faces of RG, |