After more than three decades as a general practitioner, not much surprises Dr John Ballantyne.
But after hearing he had been named GP of the year as part of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners' Tasmania faculty awards - he was left "gobsmacked".
The awards recognise the value of GPs in the community, including ways they go above and beyond the call of duty to care for their patients.
Dr Ballantyne, of Prospect Medical Centre, has been a GP in Launceston for 35 years.
And while nothing could compare to the challenges facing health workers in 2020, he said it was a privilege to help others in some of their darkest times.
"From every single patient I learn something, they teach me something. So it's a two-way street," he said.
"But sharing the journey with people - their ups and downs ... their fears and hopes. I think it's an amazing privilege.
"When you can do things that make a huge difference to people's lives. It is a very rewarding profession to have."
RACGP acting president Associate Professor Ayman Shenouda described Dr Ballantyne as a true leader, who has guided his team through the challenges of COVID-19.
"The last 12 months have been an extraordinarily trying time and Dr Ballantyne has done everything required to ensure a continued high standard of patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic," he said.
"That includes a seamless uptake of telehealth consultations and e-scripts, bi-weekly clinical meetings and working with a team to ensure a high level of support has been provided to staff members."
Dr Ballantyne also helped co-found the the Tassie Mask Project, which coordinated volunteers to make and distribute cloth face masks to vulnerable people who might not otherwise have access.
Now an ongoing project, Dr Ballantyne said the project had been successful in more ways than one.
"We achieved what we set out to, in terms of getting masks to the people who needed them. But it also brought the community together in ways we couldn't have imagined," he said.
"There were lots of people who were isolated. Then, we had immigrant families with no contacts in Tasmania, who became sewers and they made friends with people all over Tasmania.
"There was a huge group of people who came together and sewed thousands of masks."
While honoured by the recognition from his peers, Dr Ballantyne said his work would not be possible without his colleagues.
"I work with a team of very professional and very high quality colleagues and this [award] is just as much a testament to them," he said.
The RACGP was established in 1958 and is Australia's peak general practice representative organisation.
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