Elizabeth Skalkos
Elizabeth Skalkos

Elizabeth Skalkos

Rural Medical Scholarship 2019/20

Western Sydney University

Bathurst Rural Clinical 
Rotary Inspiration Woman Award (D9675 & D9685)

Sponsored by:
Late PDG Joe Scorer Scholarship

Rural Medicine Scholarship Program

How would the Australian Rotary Rural Health Scholarship help with my studies at the Rural Clinical School?

When I first started medical school I could not have imagined that I would spend a year in Bathurst.  I’ve lived my whole life in the city as a true-blue city slicker. But when the opportunity to go rural presented itself, I saw an occasion for a new challenge. Rural medicine from the outset seemed distinctly different from the metropolitan medicine that I have experienced so far. For one, there are stark inequities in the health of rural and remote communities in comparison to their metropolitan counterparts. There is the challenge of scarcity of resources, barriers to access and there is the test of generalist medicine and surgery. While the challenges themselves are enthralling, I was also engrossed by the sense of community that is interlaced in rural medicine.

I have found that integrating myself into community has given me greater insight into the context in which medicine operates. Most recently, I have spent time at a Special School in Campbelltown which completely transformed my understanding of the challenges of growing up with a disability and the effects on the family. Similarly, spending time at a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation facility helped me gain insight into the socio-cultural context in which substance use exists, in particular exposing me to how substance use impacts rural communities. Consequently, I aim to integrate myself into the Bathurst community while on placement to enrich my experience and understanding of rural medicine. Being a part of the local Rotary Club in Bathurst will be one such way to gain a deeper understanding.

Further, in line with Rotary Health’s scope I have a keen interest in research, having already undertaken a project entitled “Evaluation of the Diabetes  Contraception and Pre pregnancy Program (DCAPP) in General Practice” where I have recently subsequently submitted an abstract to the Australian Diabetes in Pregnancy Society. In my year in Bathurst I will also be conducting a project with two other of my colleagues titled “Sun safety practices, knowledge and attitudes in farmers in Central Western NSW.” Through this project I aim to further engage with the community and understand how the rural context informs health and the reasons for the health disparities that exist between rural and metropolitan contexts.

The Australian Rotary Health Scholarship for Rural Clinical Students will help massively to relieve the financial burden of relocating to Bathurst as well as the expenses of living independently. Medicine is a massive undertaking which often leaves little time for other pursuits. This scholarship would provide financial support to ensure my time can be spent engaging in the community whether that is through the Rotary club, attending local Bathurst community events or joining in on local club sport.

Current Progressive Report

I am currently halfway through my rural clinical placement in Bathurst and it has been an incredibly busy and exciting time. I have had experience in a number of medical specialities across the Western NSW LHD including general medicine, oncology as well as both orthopaedic and general surgery. The medical staff including doctors, nurses, allied health and everyone in between have been amazing in facilitating a highly enjoyable and educational experience. The patients and their families have been also been very generous with their time and patience as my peers and I learn everything there is to know about medicine directly from them.

I have found that there has barley been a spare moment in Bathurst where there wasn’t something going on. From buying fresh produce at the Farmer’s markets to ice skating during the Winter Festival and sitting amongst the crowds at the Bathurst 1000 races, Bathurst has really shown me how lively life in a regional town can be! I have also been able to attend the National Field Days in Mudgee and Orange giving passers-by free health checks and indeed nabbing some beautiful homemade jams at the same time. My research into sun safety in Farmers has also allowed me to learn a whole lot about the ongoing health needs and challenges in the community. In September of last year, I also spent the weekend in Tamworth where I was able to participate in multi-disciplinary simulations and visited the Tamworth Rescue Helicopter Base learning from the doctors and paramedics of the challenge of accessing medical services in rural and remote areas of NSW.

Throughout my time I have been privileged to engage with the Rotary Club of Bathurst. The club has been nothing less than welcoming and I am constantly surprised by the amazing work of the club’s patrons. From local graffiti clean-up to running schools in South America and giving new life to retired medical equipment in countries of need – these projects have been inspiring to say the least. The club has really shown me the true power of community.

I was also privileged to attend and speak at the 2019 Inspirational Women’s Awards hosted by The Rotary Club of Sydney Darling Harbour which was a truly brilliant event. I was again inspired by so many women of all ages and backgrounds but all of whom have taken active steps to make real changes in the community where there is need. I also found it was rewarding to be able to directly reach out to the very people who have so generously contributed to this opportunity I have received. I feel excited by the prospect that another medical student will soon also be able to feel so supported by the Rotary community during their education.

I feel very lucky to be a part of the Bathurst and Rotary communities and know that this scholarship has directly and indirectly been responsible for the massive personal and professional development that I have experienced.

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