The present paper describes the role of the hospital generalist in rural Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the contribution of emergency medicine training to that practice. Generalist practice in Tinsley District Hospital in Western Highlands Province is described, with emphasis on emergency surgery and anaesthesia. The potential of the PNG emergency medicine training programme for preparing generalists is discussed. Tinsley Hospital served a population of 40 000 people, with 4000 admissions and 300–400 operations performed annually. Two doctors and 50 nurses and community health workers provided care with minimal resources. The doctors provided supervision and teaching for nurses, community health workers, hospital administrators and primary health carers, including on long range medical patrols. Over 16 months, doctors performed 243 emergency surgical procedures including orthopaedics, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology. The generalist in rural hospitals is required to perform a wide variety of medical tasks in isolated settings yet there is no active postgraduate training programme. The Master of Medicine, Emergency Medicine programme includes rotations through the major disciplines of surgery, anaesthesia, internal medicine, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology. It has the potential to train doctors in PNG for a generalist role as graduates will learn the foundations of the required skills.