For Dr Sampsa Kiuru, rural medicine “just felt natural”

Member news
March 7, 2019

Originally from a small town in Finland, Dr Sampsa Kiuru completed his training in emergency medicine in the United States before emigrating to New Zealand in 2003. Not one for the big city life, rumours of the Kiwi lifestyle, countryside and climate convinced him to take the leap.  Sampsa landed his first job in the country in the emergency department at Gisborne Hospital, which he says he thoroughly enjoyed. He’s also spent some time working in Queenstown and Invercargill, and is currently based at Dunstan Hospital in Clyde, Central Otago. 

Dividing his working life between his role as a rural hospital specialist and two academic roles through the University of Otago, he says being able to do both clinical and academic work has been a real highlight for him. Most importantly, he says it’s allowed him to spend quality time with his family.

When we asked him why he thinks trainees should consider going into rural medicine, he wasn’t short of answers. He tells us that the variety of opportunity in rural medicine is huge, but often overlooked.

“Trainee doctors often don’t realise how many opportunities there are in rural hospital medicine for developing your own uniqueness. You can be an educationalist, a teacher, or you can do community work. The opportunities are definitely out there.”


On a personal level, he says it’s the sense of comradery and the desire to improve rural health care among his peers that make his work so fulfilling. It’s these things that made moving into rural hospital medicine a no-brainer for Sampsa: the sense of purpose, community and warmth for his work has made for a truly satisfying career.

Sampsa's rural health research

It was clear from the outset of our conversation that improving the quality of rural healthcare in New Zealand is something which really matters to Sampsa. Though kind enough to allow us to profile him, we get the impression he’d prefer to shine the limelight on his research, rather than himself. And with good reason - Sampsa and his colleagues have spent a commendable amount of time and energy developing a course which delivers much needed trauma and emergency care training to rural health teams across the country As Sampsa and his colleagues identified, the incidence of trauma in rural populations may be greater than in urban regions, but rural health services are often under-resourced: 

“In contrast to urban emergency departments with resident specialist teams of emergency physicians, surgical and medical sub-specialists, a typical rural team may consist of one or two rural hospital doctors and nurses.” 

It was after recognising this disparity that Sampsa and his colleagues set about developing the Rural Interprofessional Simulation Course (RiSC); a hands-on simulation course where mannequins, programmed to enact common trauma injuries, are used to train rural teams from across New Zealand in the treatment of such incidents.

The RiSC course is offered twice a year and feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Sampsa says the highlight of running the course was seeing trainee doctors undergo a transformation as they learned more about the provision of trauma care:

“I witnessed one participant in particular undergo a real transformation in identity as he undertook the course…those moments have been truly satisfying, to see the course you’ve worked on for some time have a lasting impact.”

Seeing our Fellows so committed to improving the state of rural health care is heart-warming, and Sampsa has certainly left a lasting impression on us.

You can read more about the RiSC course here, and if you’d like to know more about becoming a rural hospital doctor like Sampsa, check out our website