The theme for this year's symposium, 'Wellbeing in the West: Growing health research from the ground up', saw an inspiring line-up of speakers present on important research topics that related to ways in which health organisations and academics can collaborate to tackle some of the big issues facing the region.
Among the esteemed keynotes was University of Sydney planetary health professor Tony Capon, who presented on the health of communities in years of drought or environmental pressures, arguing that if the environment is in good shape people have a better chance of staying well.
"We need to keep our eye on the bigger picture because unhealthy, degraded natural systems ultimately have flow-on impacts for the health of all species," he said.
Associate Professor Hamish McDougall, who runs the University of Sydney's Virtual Reality Openlab, was also welcomed by the WHRN to showcase its work on virtual reality experiences in medicine.
As well as inspiring rural research projects around Aboriginal health, community health in years of drought and virtual access to health care, the WHRN Symposium also recognised the hard work of dedicated clinicians and academics in the region.
Dr Rob Zielinski, Director of the Central West Cancer Care Centre’s Clinical Trials Unit and School of Rural Health alumnus, was awarded Clinical Research Leader of the Year for leading a NSW-first scheme to provide rural patients with access to new and potentially life-saving cancer treatments.
Penelope Monroe, a University of Sydney speech pathology researcher also won the best emerging research abstract for her project, MUSiCON: Using music to connect and improve brain health for individuals with dementia.
Other School of Rural Health (SRH) and University of Sydney research topics presented at the conference were:
WHRN chairwoman and SRH Associate Professor Catherine Hawke said the establishment of the WHRN in 2013 had resulted in an 'exponential rise' in research in the region.
“The WHRN encourages embedding rigorous high-quality research into health and health systems innovations; and provides a forum for clinicians and academics in Western NSW to network.
“This year’s symposium highlighted the great number of projects and the diversity of research in the region in a bid to improve health services – from qualitative projects through to clinical trials”, she said.