New scholarships boost rural health workforce

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Betty Fyffe had a passion for nursing and caring for others that lives on through her generous bequest.

Rural and Remote Student
Students like Dominic are keen to make a difference in rural and remote communities, and scholarships can help them to achieve that goal.

A lifetime of caring for others

Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Josephine Fyffe (née Cahill) grew up in and around Tamworth where her father owned chemist shops. A passionate and dedicated nurse, she trained at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, before moving to Crown Street Hospital for her midwifery training. Betty nursed at Prince of Wales Hospital for many years, returning as a volunteer after retirement. She passed away in 2019 aged 92.

Betty Fyffe’s lifelong passion for caring for others lives on through her generous bequest. As a rural nurse, Betty wanted to do something about the inequalities of healthcare across the country. Every Australian should have access to world-leading healthcare but the reality can be very different for the seven million Australians living in regional, rural and remote areas. Her generous bequest has created exciting new scholarships for health students from rural and remote areas.

The new scholarship program will see $10,000 funding available each year to 20 high achieving students in nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, nutrition and dietetics, occupational therapy, medical radiation science, pharmacy, or the Medical Science or Doctor of Medicine programs – assisting both high achieving students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The generous philanthropic support has also enabled the University to establish the Betty Josephine Fyffe Chair in Rural Health to oversee quality rural training and research, and advocate for improved health outcomes for rural Australians. Professor Jenny May AM has been appointed the inaugural Chair which will be a key leadership position based in Tamworth at the University of Newcastle’s Department of Rural Health.

Inspiring students to serve their communities

Students who come from rural areas, but move away from home, are up to three times more likely to return during their working life. Thanks to Betty Fyffe’s generous gift, aspiring doctors and nurses will have greater opportunity to fulfil their career aspirations before returning to serve the communities who need it most.

These scholarships will provide students with education and hands-on training experience to master the challenges and opportunities faced by health professionals on the front line of rural healthcare. Betty’s wish, and her enduring legacy, will be that these scholarships will encourage talented, passionate rural and remote students to return to regional areas to practice their profession.

The scholarships

In keeping with her wishes, the University of Newcastle has established three scholarships in Betty Fyffe’s honour: the Betty Josephine Fyffe Rural Allied Health Scholarship, Rural Equity Scholarship and Rural Medical Excellence Scholarship.

To honour Ms Fyffe’s intent, scholarship recipients must have recently lived in a regional or remote area and demonstrated community service. The Betty Josephine Fyffe Rural Equity Scholarship will also specifically benefit disadvantaged students, including those with disabilities, Indigenous Australians and refugees, and individuals suffering financial hardship.

Thank you to the trustees of the Elizabeth Cahill Fyffe Trust for enabling and supporting important change.

Challenges remain, but Betty Fyffe's bequest to support rural health research, advocacy and care, will give us a greater chance to achieve long term rural workforce stability, a key ingredient in maintaining healthy communities. I am very grateful for her generosity and look forward to playing a role in bringing her vision to life."

- Professor Jenny May AM (B Med 1984)
Director of the University of Newcastle's Department of Rural Health and Betty Josephine Fyffe Chair in Rural Health

Thank you

Students in rural and remote areas face many challenges compared with metropolitan students, starting with less access to educational services at school level. More than 18% of our students are from rural and remote areas. Through your generous gifts to scholarships such as Shaping Futures Scholarships, you are giving these students a helping hand.
Thank you very much for helping to deliver equal opportunties for students to achieve their goals.

I want to practice rural medicine to give back to the extraordinary people in rural communities who made me the person I am”

- Dominic Horne
Bachelor of Medicine student

Providing real solutions through kindness

Life expectancy in remote areas is up to seven years lower than in major cities. People in remote areas experience higher rates of heart and lung disease, suicide and cancer, and have fewer healthcare workers to help.

In major cities there are 437 doctors per 100,000 people. In outer regional areas, 272 doctors and in very remote areas, the number drops to 264 doctors. The scholarships and the Chair position will help to address the shortfalls in medical support in rural and remote areas.

The University of Newcastle is incredibly grateful to be chosen to help carry out Betty Fyffe’s wishes for more equitable health outcomes for all Australians. It’s a privilege to honour her philanthropic legacy.”

- Professor Alex Zelinsky AO
Vice-Chancellor and President

If you haven’t visited the University of Newcastle at Tamworth, we can arrange a tour of the Department of Rural Health. Call 02 4921 8612 or email

Read more in The Gift magazine

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.