For out-of-town medical graduates who enter into regional practices, it can take more than a stethoscope to find a home where the heart is.
Timothy Fitzpatrick, a general practitioner at Terang Medical Clinic for 30 years, said there were promising signs of more doctors committing to the town after workforce challenges in the past.
"We have advertised for ages and ages, and not a single bite for many years," Dr Fitzpatrick said.
He said for doctors to stay long-term it often took a strike of luck if they partnered up.
But Dr Fitzpatrick said the Warrnambool medical school was also helping build a sense of comfort for newcomers to stay.
Adelaide-born Jacqueline Altree and three registrars training as specialist GPs are among new Terang doctors from the Deakin campus in the past few years.
Dr Altree graduated in Warrnambool's inaugural 2011 class and knows of only one other doctor who continued working in the south-west from that year's dozen graduates.
The Deakin Warrnambool Medical School was established in part to address regional doctor shortages but Dr Altree said career opportunities continued to draw many back to metropolitan areas, and away from general practice.
"Going straight from medical school into a rural area can limit your options," she said, explaining that city hospital training often helped doctors to specialise.
"Unless you have already decided you want to do general practice, it makes more sense to move to the city."
Dr Altree returned from Warrnambool to Adelaide and then Mount Gambier to complete her training.
But after meeting a partner while in the south-west, the couple wanted to be near family.
Dr Altree also prefers the amount of individual care she gives patients in a smaller town.
"It was also because we had more family support here, housing affordability, childcare arrangements and proximity to work," she said.
Dr Altree also advocates strongly for general practice because it prevents patients' health worsening and can avoid their future hospitalisation.
"It is the area where I think we have the opportunity to have the biggest impact on people's lives and the most ability to keep people out of hospital and healthy into the long-term, and keep them off doctor Google," she said.
The benefits of practising regionally aren't novel to Dr Fitzpatrick, who grew up in Hamilton and completed his medical training in Melbourne.
He moved with wife Janine, a Melbourne resident and teacher, in 1991.
"It can all depend on who you meet as a partner," he said of the reasons why doctors stayed.
Dr Fitzpatrick studied anesthetics and obstetrics and was initially drawn to Terang where he could assist the hospital. He delivered more than 600 babies until the service stopped in the town last year.
"Professionally, it's really good working in the country. There is great variety," he said.
"I am just so rapt to work with these young, enthusiastic, keen and caring doctors. It's a dream come true."
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