Dr Matt Gvalda and his wife Rose, a midwife, arrived in Shepparton from Melbourne in January.
“We lived in Box Hill before this,” Dr Gvalda, who is doing his doctoral internship at GV Health, said.
“I’d worked as a midwife and nurse at Box Hill for three years,” Ms Gvalda said.
“A big issue can be both partners finding a job when going regional. When Matt was applying we looked at places where I’d be able to work in maternity as well – Shepparton’s size and access to amenities made it really attractive.”
The variety of experiences on offer in the GV Health region were particularly attractive to the Gvaldas.
“It’s a bit different to what I’m used to,” Ms Gvalda said.
“One of the benefits of being in the country is that people are nicer and more likely to come up for a chat. People introduce themselves and make you feel welcome.”
For Dr Gvalda, who is presently on the general medical wards, the opportunity to intern in a regional setting means he has the chance to explore a wide range of interests, including anaesthetics.
“Long-term I’m not sure what I want to do yet,” he said.
“I really like working with kids, and I do a lot of that through my church. The emergency department is interesting to me as well, as I worked at the ED at the Austin in Melbourne.”
The move to Shepparton was a smooth one for the Gvaldas, who are enthusiastic about the employment opportunities the redevelopment is bringing to the area.
“We got the first house we applied for,” Ms Gvalda said.
“Our occupations definitely help with applications!”
With those occupations come shift work however, meaning the Gvaldas have only had a few opportunities to embrace the region’s lifestyle opportunities since arriving.
“We’ve been getting out and about when we can,” Ms Gvalda said.
“We saw a turtle in the river the other day, and also checked out the Chocolate Apple Factory.”
Dr Gvalda is enthusiastic about the area’s opportunities to eat out, and is excited to start exploring what’s on offer in Mooroopna and beyond. Fitness and outdoor activities are also a big focus for the couple.
“We’ve signed up to the gym, and we’re looking forward to getting out to the snow fields later in the year,” he said.
It was love that originally brought general surgeon Ruwangi Udayasiri to Shepparton.
“I’m originally from Sri Lanka,” Dr Udayasiri said.
“My husband’s a Sheppartonian. We met at the College of Surgeons in Melbourne, where he was considering becoming a medico-lawyer. We had coffee and the rest is history!”
Dr Udayasiri interned in Shepparton and then returned for her surgical training. She has since fallen in love with the Goulburn Valley region and the many opportunities it offers.
“I’m Shepparton’s only female general surgeon,” she said.
“It’s a bit of a unique experience. There’s a gender positive supportiveness here at GV Health as well. It’s wonderful as a female doctor to have that support. You wouldn’t get both the opportunities and the support you get here, in a metropolitan area.”
The University of Melbourne graduate said she now lectured locally at her alma mater’s Clinical School.
“There are a lot of opportunities for career advancement and to be an all-round specialist in Shepparton, as opposed to being in Melbourne and focused on the clinical things,” she said.
“I get to be a teacher, examiner and student here.”
Dr Udayasiri is enthusiastic about GV Health’s supportive attitude to its employees.
“That’s especially true about junior staff,” she said.
“I came here as a specialist and they took a chance on me.”
A big part of the region’s appeal is its accessibility and amenities. Dr Udayasiri is mum to two children under three, meaning some of the challenges of juggling work and family life are relieved by short commutes.
“Getting to work in two minutes is amazing,” she said.
“My husband’s work is close to day care, which is also close to GV Health. It’s so important to spend time with your family.”
Access to grandparents only a short drive away is an additional perk.
Dr Udayasiri said commuting when working in a city like Melbourne could have a huge effect on a person’s ability to do their job properly.
“Your days are spent in a car running between places,” she said.
“It compromises your mental health and the job you do for your patient when you’re becoming stressed and unfocused.”
Living in a regional area also means getting to know your patients in a way rarely experienced by health care professionals in a metropolitan area.
“In the city it can be very impersonal,” Dr Udayasiri said.
“In the country you get to know one another, which means you have to be really good at your job. Contributing to a community and developing relationships is so fulfilling.”
The Goulburn Valley region’s rapid growth means it is in need of ever greater numbers of specialists.
“Being a female general surgeon, I’ve really enjoyed how valued I feel,” Dr Udayasiri said.
“I think GV Health gets great specialists because you can’t last here unless you’re good at your job, which means being kind, supportive and listening to the community’s needs. The reason I fit in here is that I’m able to fill a need.”
Dr Udayasiri’s young family has been in the region for a little more than a year and they are looking forward to building a home soon.
“I’m sure part of the reason that I was actually employed was that I do have that family support system,” she said.
“I’m sure GV Health were looking for an employee that has long-term plans here, and that’s definitely the case. It’s worked out fantastic – we want to stay here!"