Professor Jenny May appointed National Rural Health Commissioner

Professor Jenny May appointed National Rural Health Commissioner

University of Newcastle’s Professor Jenny May, AM, has been appointed Australia’s National Rural Health Commissioner.

Announced recently by Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, the National Rural Health Commissioner provides health policy advice and advocates for reforms which support better access to safe, quality and affordable health care in rural, regional and remote Australia.

Having worked as a rural GP for more than 35 years in rural, regional and remote WA, NT and NSW, as well as overseas in rural Canada, Professor May brings a wealth of experience to the role of commissioner.

A University of Newcastle graduate, Professor May was among the first cohort of students who undertook a rural medical placement in Tamworth in 1980.

She joined the University of Newcastle Department of Health (UDRH) in Tamworth in 2004 where she has dedicated herself to health education for more than two decades, leading as its director for the past seven years.

As the University’s inaugural Betty Josephine Fyffe Chair in Rural Health with the University’s College of Health, Medicine and Wellbeing, Professor May oversees quality rural training and research, and advocates for improved health outcomes for rural Australians.

Concurrently working as a practicing GP in Tamworth, Professor May has significant research expertise in health workforce matters.

In 2016 she received the Order of Australia for significant service to community health in rural and regional Australia as a general practitioner, to professional medical groups, and to education.

Having committed the past 20 years of her career to rural health needs and training the nation’s rural health professionals, Professor May said she was excited about the opportunity to take her focus and commitment to the national level.

“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.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky, AO, congratulated Professor May on her appointment as National Rural Health Commissioner.

“We’re extremely proud of Professor May’s appointment as National Rural Health Commissioner – a fitting acknowledgment of her wealth of experience and expertise in rural health and health education,” Professor Zelinsky said.

“As a practising GP and with more than two decades’ experience with our Department of Rural Health in Tamworth, teaching our nation’s next generation of doctors, nurses and allied health workers, she is the right person to fill this important role.”

Professor Zelinsky said Professor May’s exceptional experience would position her well to offer advice on reforms to rural health in areas such as primary health care, the health workforce and training.

“Professor May’s appointment is wonderful recognition of the University of Newcastle’s expertise in rural health education, and I look forward to working with her in her new role.”

Minister Mark Butler said making sure all Australians have access to quality, affordable and safe health care was a priority.

“Professor May’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,” Mark 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.”

The Australian Government established the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner (ONRHC) in 2017 to support reforms of rural health in Australia.

Professor May will commence as the National Rural Health Commissioner on 2 September 2024 (until 30 June 2026). An Acting National Rural Health Commissioner will be appointed for the period between July and September 2024.

IMAGE | Professor Jenny May

University of Newcastle

The University of Newcastle is ranked in the top 3% of universities in the world according to two global independent ranking systems, and in the top 200 universities in the world for medicine. 

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