New England Division of General Practice

Scholarship & Prize

2015 – Dr Robert French & Dr Peter Ryan

The Robert French Surgical Prize

When Dr Bob French retired from clinical practice at the end of 2014 after 43 years of service to the Armidale community, the Board of the NEDGP wanted to acknowledge his contribution to medicine and teaching in Armidale, and felt that a fitting way to do this was to award a graduation prize in his honour and established the Robert French Prize for Surgery.

The Prize is awarded annually to a student who shows academic excellence by way of graduation with distinction, who scores amongst the top graduates in their surgical courses, and who demonstrates a commitment to a career in surgery by way of extracurricular activities related to surgery.

Dr Bob French & Dr Sally Sinclair

2016 – Dr Sally Sinclair and Dr Bob French

The 2015 recipient was Dr Peter Ryan, who was also the inaugural head of the Student Surgical Society at UNE.

The 2016 recipient was Dr Sally Sinclair who scored the highest mark in the surgical course, was a certified embalmer, an anatomy demonstrator for the Postgraduate anatomy dissection course, and was the Executive Officer of the UNE Student Surgical Society in 2012/2013.  She is also a New England local who hails from Tamworth, and is working as an intern in Tamworth this year.

Dr Ben Cunanen with Dr Bob French

2017 – Dr Ben Cunanen with Dr Bob French





The 2017 recipient was Dr Ben Cunanen who received the highest marks in surgery over his 5 year course.


2018 recipient is Elloise Smith, pictured receiving her certificate and $1000 cheque from Dr Bob French and NEDGP Chair Michelle Guppy.

2018 – Dr Michelle Guppy, Dr Robert French, Dr Elloise Smith


2019 saw Dr Sean Styan take home both the Dr Robert French and Dr Phil Bookallil Prizes


2020 - Dr Michelle Guppy and Dr Robert French presenting the prize to Dr Erin Bourke

The 2020 recipient is Dr Erin Bourke and she was presented with a certificate by NEDGP Treasurer/Secretary Michelle Guppy with Dr Bob French .








Hillary Metcalfe -2021 winner of the Robert French prize for Surgery

Dr Hillary Metcalfe was the 2021 recipient and she writes:

Throughout my training I found I was interested in a wide variety of specialties and struggled to decide whether I was more surgically or medically inclined. Radiology is a career that melds the two, allowing multidisciplinary involvement with many specialty areas to help diagnose and plan treatment for patients, as well as a more hands-on interventional aspect.


Michael Merakis_Robert French prize for Surgery recipient in 2022


The 2022 Recipient is Michael Merakis and his prize was announced at the Graduation dinner for Medicine students on the 1st May 2022.

Michael writes in response to his prize:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to study medicine under such great teachers. Thank you so much to the New England Division of General Practice for their generous prize and this award. A special thank you to Prof Bob French for his superlative surgical and anatomy education sessions in Armidale.

I’m an intern at John Hunter Hospital. I’m currently working towards a Masters in Surgery by coursework and research from the University of Sydney and will continue towards pursuing further education in Neurosurgery after that.








The Phillip Bookallil Prize for Rural General Practice

Dr Sharna Bennett

At the 2015 AGM, NEDGP members asked for the establishment of a prize to recognise a graduating student for rural general practice.

The $1,000 Rural General Practice prize is to be awarded annually to a student who shows academic excellence by way of scoring in the top 15% of graduates in their primary care course, with excellent reports from their GP supervisors, and who demonstrates an interest in rural general practice through extracurricular activities.

Given the recent retirement of Dr Phil Bookallil it was quite fitting that this prize be named after this long-serving and dedicated member of the GP fraternity in New England. The inaugural Phillip Bookallil Prize for Rural General Practice of $1,000 was presented at the Graduation dinner in April, 2016 to Dr Sharna Bennett.

Sharna scored one of the highest marks in the primary care course, consistently scored excellent supervisory reports, and was a member of the GP student network.  She is also one of our first graduates to be accepted into the Rural Generalist Training Program, which trains graduates from their intern year into a career in rural medicine.

NEDGP Chair Dr Michelle Guppy with 2017 prize winner Dr Emma Gordon

NEDGP Chair Dr Michelle Guppy with 2017 prize winner Dr Emma Gordon


The 2017 recipient is Dr Emma Gordon who was also the highest ranked UNE JMP Student.

The 2018 recipient is Mitchell Hickson, pictured with NEDGP Chair Dr Michelle Guppy at Graduation.

2019 recipient is Dr Sean Styan who was also awarded the Robert French Prize for Surgery


2018 – Dr Michelle Guppy with Dr Mitchell Hickson


                                                                                                                                                      2019 – Dr Sean Styan presented with both Bob French & Phil Bookallil prizes


The 2020 recipient is Dr Kate Penfold and she has been sent her prize and certificate. We hope to congratulate her in person in the future, but has been in contact to say – ‘I am incredibly honoured to have been awarded the Phillip Bookallil Prize for Rural General Practice. Coming from a rural community myself, I have always been interested in rural medicine. This interest grew with each placement and with each meeting of an inspiring rural GP. ‘

Kate Penfold - 2020 winner of the Phillip Bookallil Prize for GP

Dr Matthew Parsons is the 2021 recipient of the  Phillip Bookallil Prize for Rural General Practice and he writes: I’m currently based in Tamworth for the next two years with no plans on leaving. It is an honor to receive the Phillip Bookallil Prize for Rural General Practice and a great encouragement as I seek to stay practicing in the area and pursue Rural General Practice with skills in Emergency Medicine!


Laura Mallett - 2022 recipient of the Phillip Bookallil Prize for General PracticeLaura Mallett is the 2022 recipient of the Phillip Bookallil prize for General Practice and we are delighted to congratulate her! Michelle Guppy presented Laura with her certificate during the 2021 graduation dinner on the 1st May at Echidna Gully.

Laura has written in response to the prize announcement : ‘I feel very honoured to have been presented with the Philip Bookallil Prize for Rural General Practice. Thank you so much to the New England Division of General Practice for this generous prize. Studying medicine at the University of New England after growing up in Sydney really opened my eyes to the joys of living rurally as well as the barriers rural communities face in terms of healthcare. I loved my medical student years spent in Armidale and Tamworth and the exposure I received to rural medicine.

I am currently an intern at Royal North Shore Hospital. I have enjoyed every placement and rotation I have completed thus far so am still unsure which speciality I would like to head into, which is one of the reasons rural general practice appeals because of its huge variety! I would love to head back to the country to work as a doctor in the future.’

The NEDGP hopes to continue these prizes in years to come and tax deductible donations are welcome.


John Nevin Scholarship

The John Nevin Scholarship was developed to recognise local physician Dr John Nevin’s long and exemplary service to medicine over 30 years, and was launched following his retirement at the end of 2006. It was thought appropriate that something be done to ensure the memory of his service was not lost and that the spirit of his selfless commitment to patients, colleagues and community be perpetuated.The John Nevin Scholarship fund allows the NEDGP to continue to support first year medical students of the Joint Medical School at the University of New England with a scholarship grant of $5,000 to contribute to their ongoing education.

The scholarship has supported 15 students from around rural and remote Australia to pursue careers in rural medicine. All recipients have succeeded in continuing their medical education, with the first recipient intending to pursue an internship in a regional area.

This scholarship was made possible initially through the generous donations of local General Practitioners and community members in 2006, with many opting to continue their donations regularly over the years.

If you are interested in making a tax deductible donation to the fund please contact the NEDGP.

Students are offered the Scholarship at the commencement of their first semester.


2008 Shannon Townsend, from Wongarbon near Dubbo & Daniel Tilley, from Bennison, Victoria

2009 Fiona Doig from northern QLD

2010 Davida Shirkey from Inverell, NSW

2011 Lara Proud from rural Victoria then Port Macquarie, NSW

2012 Samuel Williams from Walgett, NSW

2013 Connor Moylan from Lansdowne near Taree, NSW

2014 Hayley Collins from Orange NSW

2015 Mitchell Tillott from Tyalgum NSW

2016 Grace Nelson from Bathurst NSW

2017 Eliza Metz from Junee NSW

2018 Helen Peffer from Linthorpe QLD

2019 Oliver McCahill from MacKay QLD

2020 Jared Lawrence from Mt Olive NSW

2021 Matt St Hill from Forster/Tuncurry NSW

2022 Bethanie Rice from Armidale NSW

2008 presentation

2008 Presentation – NEDGP Director Roger Munday, JNS Recipient Shannon Townsend, Dr John Nevin, JNS Recipient Daniel Tilley, NEDGP Director Maree Puxty

2009 presentation – JNS Recipient, Fiona Doig

2009 JNS Recipient Fiona Doig

2011 presentation

2011 Presentation – JNS Recipient Lara Proud with NEDGP CEO Sally Armitage

2012 presentation

2012 Presentation – JNS Recipient Samuel Williams with Dr John Nevin


2015 Presentation

2015 Presentation – NEDGP Chair Dr Michelle Guppy, Dr John Nevin, Mitchell Tillott & Prof. Steve Doherty
























2017 Recipient Eliza Metz with Dr John Nevin

Hayley Collins & John Nevin

2014 Presentation – JNS Recipient Hayley Collins with Dr John Nevin

Grace Nelson with Dr John Nevin

2016 Presentation – JNS Recipient Grace Nelson with Dr John Nevin

2018 JNS Recipient Helen Peffer with Dr John Nevin

2019 Scholarship recipient Oliver McCahill

2019 Scholarship recipient Oliver McCahill

Jared Lawrence 2020 winner of the John Nevin Scholarship

Jared Lawrence 2020 winner of the John Nevin Scholarship

John Nevin presenting Bethanie Rice with her 2022 certificate

Matt St Hill receiving his award from Dr John Nevin and Dr Michelle Guppy in 2021