Bethany Clayton has been named the recipient of the Mudgee Regional Community Scholarship, by the University of Wollongong, which continues the relationship between UOW and the local area.
The annual scholarship, worth $2500 per year for the length of the degree, was designed to attract and retain health professionals in the region.
A Mudgee native, Ms Clayton is a Bachelor of Public Health student, who wants improved access to health facilities in her hometown, and to be a part of the solution.
"There's such a demand for the services of medical professionals and limited access out here," she said. "Growing up I've seen the health issues around the region, I've noticed there's not great access to mental health services, and even going to the doctor can be really expensive."
Working part-time in hospitality she said the scholarship has allowed her to devote more time to her studies. In the first year of a three-year degree, Ms Clayton is keeping an open mind about her career prospects.
At this stage, she has her sights set on research. Infectious diseases and chronic diseases like diabetes and mental health conditions are of great interest to her, and she wants to do meaningful work that impacts people in regional Australia and across the globe.
"This scholarship will open up many other opportunities in my future, hopefully allowing me to pursue a career within public health that will benefit communities such as our own," she said.
Mid-Western Regional Council Mayor Des Kennedy said Council is proud to continue its ongoing support of the scholarship, which was established in 2017 and is sponsored by council, Club Mudgee, Moolarben Coal Operations and Wilpinjong Coal.
"I congratulate Bethany on the hard work and commitment she has demonstrated to receive this award," he said. "I am pleased Council is able to work with Club Mudgee, Moolarben Coal Operations, Wilpinjong Coal and the University of Wollongong to provide this scholarship that will assist in securing much needed high quality, accessible health care services for the Mid-Western Region into the future.
"It is a fantastic initiative that we're able to support local students pursue a career in health to hopefully one day return to the area to practice these skills."
At Wednesday's ceremony, Associate Professor David Garne said, "this isn't just an event to hand the award over to Bethany, it's also to recognise the fantastic community support that UOW as a university has received from the community".
"We have a long history that started with the construction of the house that's accommodation for our medical students," he said.