Orange Hospital cardiologist Dr Ruth Arnold has been awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the annual Australia Day honours.
"I was very surprised, and pleased," said Dr Arnold, who received the OAM for her services to medicine. "It is a great honour.
"It is nice to be appreciated for the work that we do in medicine - we have a career where we can give back to the community, but one doesn't expect to be honoured."
Dr Arnold and the cardiology team at Orange Hospital, including long-serving Dr David Amos and clinical nurse consultant Estelle Ryan, service an area - Western Local Health District - of some 250,000 square kilometres.
With many sparsely populated areas hundreds of kilometres from medical help, Orange has become a crucial heart hub for locals and those in remote towns.
Dr Arnold - director of the hospital's Department of Cardiology and a former chair of the OHS Medical Staff Council - has worked as a cardiologist for Orange Health Service since 2001.
"Back in those days there was a lot of negativity from metropolitan centres about what we could do in a regional setting, so to be able to build services over 20 years to the level we have now has been an amazing experience," she said.
She said the "biggest achievement" in heart medicine in recent years was a project developed in conjunction with Ambulance NSW that has averted numerous tragedies.
Dr Arnold worked on the project's steering committee.
"It allows paramedics to treat patients at the scene for heart attacks and get them much more rapidly from across a vast rural area into Orange for heart attack care," she said.
Paramedics can now do an electrocardiogram (ECG) at the scene of a medical emergency.
"They transmit that to a centralised receiving computer in Orange and it's viewed immediately by the cardiologist.
"The cardiologist immediately calls the paramedics, and if the patient is able to have clot-busting treatment at the scene that can be administered by the paramedics."
Dr Arnold said it was "an exciting and rewarding program that has made a massive difference - it has saved lives".
Dr Arnold has been a co-chair of the NSW Medical Staff Executive Council since 2016; chair of the Imaging Working Group, Cardiology Committee of the Medicare Benefits Schedule Review since 2015; and was a member of the Independent Panel to oversee Garling Recommendations.
"I was always interested in cardiology," she said.
"It's about many things: you've got heart failure, which is about pumps and hemodynamics; you've got electrical problems, which is the palpitations; and you've got coronary problems, which is the plumbing.
"So it has a bit of everything."
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