Welcome to Geetha Ranmuthugala

The Department of Rural Health welcomes Geetha Ranmuthugala as the new Deputy Head, Department of Rural Health

Geetha Ranmuthugala is an epidemiologist who has lived most of her working life in rural and regional Australia. Throughout her career, Geetha has focused on improving the health and wellbeing of people living outside metropolitan areas through research and training. In her new role as Deputy Head at the Department of Rural Health in Shepparton, Geetha is keen to continue her efforts to enhance the health of rural communities.

Before starting her latest role at the University of Melbourne, Geetha was with the School of Rural Medicine, University of New England (UNE). In that role, she helped deliver the Joint Medical Program in partnership with the University of Newcastle. Students enrolling in the Joint Medical Program at UNE undertook a major part of their training in or around the regional town of Armidale.

One of Geetha’s earlier roles was based in rural Tasmania where she experienced firsthand the challenges of providing health services to people in rural areas. It was only natural that she felt she needed to make a difference to these areas.

“While Australia does quite well in terms of the number of doctors and certain healthcare professionals per 100,000 of the population, there is a maldistribution with people living in rural areas having poorer access to healthcare compared with their city counterparts.

“This is a problem given that people living in rural and remote Australia experience poorer health status and outcomes compared with those living in metropolitan Australia”, Geetha said.

Geetha’s passion for improving the health outcomes of people living in rural communities is part of what attracted her to her newest role at the University of Melbourne.

“The work the Department of Rural Health does to provide education and research training in the rural context is quite impressive. The work they do makes a difference to disadvantaged communities and I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to contribute to it.

“My team here are collaborative and engage so well with local health services, providers and students.

If there is one thing Geetha hopes to raise more awareness of, it’s the misconception around what it means to live in the country for some people.

“There’s a perception people have of what it’s like to live in the country – that farmers and country residents experience a healthy lifestyle with clean air and fresh food, living the life we dream of. But this is not always the case. People living in these areas often have poor access to healthcare. Rates of chronic disease and preventable hospitalisations are higher in rural and remote Australia compared to metropolitan Australia. There needs to be greater awareness of these disadvantages. I feel proud to be part of a team that is working to address some of these problems.”