Rural Health Workforce Australia is the peak body for the state and territory Rural Workforce Agencies. Our not-for-profit Network attracts, recruits and supports health professionals for rural and remote communities.

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Coonabarabran charms new dentist

Dr Vicky Prokopiou received a typically warm country welcome when she arrived in Coonabarabran, a town of 3,000 people part way between Dubbo and Tamworth in New South Wales.

The day she opened her dental surgery, the local florist dropped by with some flowers, the baker called in and there were plenty of other well-wishers.

"The town's really embraced us, which is lovely," says Dr Prokopiou, who made the move from Sydney with her husband Peter. "It's been like the birth of a new child; people are really excited."

Since then, business has been strong with appointments booked out many weeks ahead and patients coming from surrounding towns like Binnaway, Coolah and Baradine.

"We've been really busy," says Dr Prokopiou, who has employed two dental nurses and is looking to take on a third.

Dr Prokopiou, known locally as 'Dr Vicky', received a Dental Relocation and Infrastructure Support Scheme grant to help her make the transition to rural dentistry.

"This grant has been fantastic," she says. "It certainly takes a lot of pressure off a young married couple like us.

"The fact that DRISS has helped me buy an OPG (dental x-ray) machine has been awesome. It means I can do extractions with more confidence and also helps me refer patients with more complex issues to specialists in Dubbo, Orange and Sydney."

Dr Prokopiou has been contributing to the community in other ways. Her surgery is sponsoring the major prize at the Warrumbungle arts and craft exhibition, and she has given talks about oral health at the local pre-school and nursing home.

She has also started clinical mentoring of fifth year dentistry students at Charles Sturt University in Dubbo every fortnight and participates in regional meetings of colleagues who are members of the Australian Dental Association.

Asked about the difference between country and city dentistry, she replies: "You need to have a broad range of skills, particularly communication. The community here likes people who are down to earth and can explain things to them."

Dr Prokopiou is delighted with her new life. She says Coonabarabran is a very hardworking, creative, musical and sporting town. "There's always something to do," she says. "We just need more days in the weekend."

Picture: Dr Prokopiou and her team.