Home | Industry & Reform | University of Newcastle professor appointed National Rural Health Commissioner
Newly appointed National Rural Health Commissioner Dr Jennifer May AM has 25 years experience working in rural and remote Australia. Picture: Supplied

University of Newcastle professor appointed National Rural Health Commissioner

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler has announced University of Newcastle's Professor Jennifer May is to take over as National Rural Health Commissioner.

The University of Newcastle graduate has dedicated her career to rural health care, working as a GP in rural, regional and remote WA, NT and NSW for 35 years. In 2016 Professor May was honoured with the Order of Australia for her contribution to community health.

Professor May is only the third National Rural Health Commissioner appointed in Australia and takes over from Adjunct Professor Ruth Stewart who has held the position since July 2020. The federal government established the office in 2017 with the aim of supporting reforms such as the Stronger Rural Health Strategy.

Professor May says the education of the next generation of rural healthcare workers is one of her highest priorities for the future of rural healthcare in Australia.

“My mantra is focused on how we ‘grow, train, retain’ health students rurally so they stay and become
part of the health community in the rural areas where they’re needed most,” Professor May said.

As part of the announcement Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler took the opportunity to acknowledge the steps already taken by the federal government to assist those in rural areas.

“Making sure all Australians have access to quality, affordable and safe health care is an Albanese Government priority," Minister Butler said.

“We are strengthening Medicare and rolling out important health reforms to make sure that no matter where people live in Australia they can get the right care, at the right time, by the right team.

“Jenny’s experience, expertise and drive will help continue the reforms necessary to build better models of care suited to the needs of people living outside of our cities."

Assistant Minister for Rural and Regional Health Emma McBride welcomed Professor May to her new position.

“I look forward to working with Professor May to improve healthcare for all Australians, especially those living in the bush," she said.

“Our historic increase to bulk billing incentives has seen the rate increase by 3.4 per cent nationally since last November, with some of the greatest gains  in rural and regional communities.

Professor May will commence as the National Rural Health Commissioner on 2 September 2024.

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