Rural health experience provided the steppingstones to start a career

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The WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) of The University of Western Australia recently caught up with Alumni Rachael Laing to ask her a few questions on how her Public Health career is progressing and reflect on her time spent with WACRH in the Pilbara.

Can you outline your time spent with the WA Centre for Rural Health?

In late 2018 I reached out to Associate Professor Rohan Rasiah at the WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) in the Pilbara, expressing my interest in completing my University of Western Australia (UWA) Master of Public Health Dissertation in the latter half of 2019.

I arrived in Karratha in early 2019, having accepted a position as a Research Assistant with WACRH working on the ‘Stepping Stones to Sport Program’ before later commencing my dissertation on health literacy in mid-2019 under the supervision of WACRH’s Rohan Rasiah and Professor Sandra Thompson.

Can you tell me about the health promotion scholarship you were granted whilst working with WACRH?

Upon completion of my dissertation, I was successful in being awarded an Australian Health Promotion Association (AHPA) WA Branch regional health promotion scholarship, to be undertaken with WACRH, supervised again by Rohan Rasiah and Sandra Thompson.

The project was titled the 'Getting On, Getting Going' project, which aimed to survey the preferences of older adults (60+ years) in the City of Karratha region which aimed to develop a localised physical activity program for the target group. The project ran from February to October 2020.

Can you tell me about the two papers you published during your time working with WACRH?

I was fortunate to first author a paper linked with my Masters Dissertation titled Fostering Health Literacy Responsiveness in a Remote Primary Health Care Setting: A Pilot Study.

I also co-authored a second paper linked with my Research Assistant work with WACRH as part of my AHPA scholarship project titled Considerations in Planning Physical Activity for Older Adults in Hot Climates: A Narrative Review.

Have the regional experiences working with WACRH shaped your career in any way?

Absolutely! The regional work and study experience in public health and health promotion with WACRH has been invaluable to my career.

I relocated to Karratha with the hope that my experience would put me in a competitive position at the start of my career, and it certainly has. I couldn’t recommend going regional more.

It offered me a more hands-on experience than I would have had if I’d completed a project in Perth.

My work with WACRH provided me with an incredibly supportive learning experience.

It introduced me to mixed methods research, community consultation, needs analysis, evaluation, and academic writing. It also solidified my learning and understanding of the core competencies of health promotion and project management.

The regional experience working with WACRH has helped me in securing the roles I've held since, as regional experience is so highly valued in my field.

Even though I am no longer based in the Pilbara, I use my learnings and knowledge from my time with WACRH every single day and feel incredibly committed to bettering the health of those in regional Western Australia.

I am very grateful for my time with WACRH for setting me up for success.