Katherine Duma
Katherine Duma

Katherine Duma

Rural Medical Scholarship 2023

University of Adelaide

Whyalla Rural Clinical School
Scholarship Awarded 2023

Sponsored by:
Rotary Club of St Peters

Rural Medicine Scholarship Program

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

I have been privileged to be welcomed into a vast number of rural and remote communities – from mentoring programs across WA, attending (now running) the Yalata Indigenous Kidney Health Festival, and attending John Flynn in Kapunda.   I am beyond thrilled to participate in the highlight of my medical school journey, spending 5th year in Whyalla. This scholarship would reap a number of benefits, allowing me greater involvement and integration within the community. This scholarship would allow me to afford integration into the community through local sporting teams such as hockey, netball, tennis or footy. I love to remain active and believe that sports are a fundamental way of forming connections and growing bonds within rural towns. Since moving interstate to commence medicine, I have been completely financially independent, including the purchase of a car this year as required for 5th year by the rural clinical school. High rental costs in 2022, this year’s full-time nature of hospital placement as well as volunteering commitments as University Rural Health Alliance president and AMSS sports officer limit my ability to earn the high annual costs to join such sporting teams.

In 2022, my goal as AMSS sports officer was to encourage friendships through love of sport, without financial obligation. I reinstated the Adelaide Medical Student ‘Run Club’, through which we gained a large attendance at the weekly community “ParkRun”. Through this scholarship, it would be my dream to work with the Whyalla community to establish a Whyalla “parkrun,” to match those events already established in similar sized nearby towns including Port Lincoln and Port Augusta.   This is an excellent all-ages, free community event, encouraging active movement for all abilities. Having lesser financial pressures would give me the additional time required to arrange volunteers, meet with the town council and undergo the logistical organisation this event requires, whilst allowing me to focus on my study and attend full time placement.

Furthermore, I am facilitating the Yalata Indigenous Kidney Health Festival in 2023. My ambition is to work alongside Rural Clinical School connections to extend this program beyond Yalata, areas such as Ceduna or Whyalla. These areas face similar challenges regarding poor health literacy, limited affordable fresh produce and high rates of kidney disease. This program involves working with the Yalata school, running a week of interactive health education activities, working with the dialysis bus, volunteering at the nursing station and alongside RFDS. It not only benefits the Yalata community but provides university students a taste of the rewarding nature of working in country healthcare. Having involvement in this program for many years, I understand the level of commitment required to extend this program. Being awarded this scholarship would afford me the time to work with rural clinical school and achieve an extension of this program to other areas.

Finally, I would love to use this scholarship to work alongside the Rural Clinical School’s research team, who supervised our 3rd year research project. I would be honoured to further develop this work whilst on rural placement.

Current Progressive Report

Rural 5th year began with a week of induction tutorials and workshops to prepare us for scenarios that rural medicine would bring over the year. It was whirlwind of learning how to stabilise a patient whilst waiting for Medstar retrievals, country driving and tips for maintaining mental health in an isolated environment.

With our heads bursting with new knowledge, the rural 5th year cohort of 2023 packed up their cars and set off for their homes for the year. For me, this would be Whyalla, just under 400km East of Adelaide, and my first time living long term out of a capital city.

I began my medical placement with 6 weeks of obstetrics and gynaecology, alternating between midwives and visiting locum obstetricians. As the locums were often new to town and on week-long rosters, I became the “local”, and quickly learned the ropes regarding hospital services, equipment available and navigating around the hospital system. Working in a tight-knit team and small community allowed me to foster strong trust and connection with patients. It was so rewarding to see women throughout multiple antenatal appointments, discussing birth plans, attend home visits and assist in caesareans or delivery of the babies! Attended home-visits after these births was an absolute privilege, as I was able to witness the huge changes that even a few days can make and see the new mums and bubs in their home environment. I have grown to appreciate the sense of community that extends beyond the hospital walls, with many fellow staff members and patients inviting me into their lives, sharing personal stories and encouraging me to participate with them in local events.

It is important to note these strong doctor-patient connections didn’t come without challenges. Adverse outcomes were rare, however I have found them far more confronting in the small-town environment, where I was highly emotionally invested in my patient’s wellbeing and their medical journey. However, the community has showed such gratitude and appreciation for my role as well as provided such a strong support system that I am gaining increasing confidence navigating these challenging moments.

During this placement, it was my goal to forge connections within the community. I attended the Whyalla Harrier’s weekly run-club and was a regular at the close knit “Dive and thrive” sunrise swim community. Our medical student crew never missed a Wednesday night Pub quiz, where I’ve gained newfound appreciation for the local’s knowledge on 1970’s music and American history. It was a joy to attend the local gym alongside many of my midwife colleagues, and partake in their book exchanges. I have also been busy working alongside my medical and allied Health Colleagues to organise Yalata Kidney Health Festival. We are excited to work alongside our 10 volunteer students, aKtion kidney Health team, visiting specialist health practitioners and the dialysis bus to provide community education on Kidney Health.

After what felt like a only few days, I moved to Port Augusta for 2 weeks of paediatrics. Here, I attended to patients in the hospital, worked with families and attended outpatient clinics in the afternoons. With few consultant paediatricians and resources compared with the city, I saw how the medical team where able to think quickly and use innovative solutions to safely care for children in the Port Augusta hospital, and minimise expensive journey’s to the city where possible. I am forever being amazed by the depth of skill of the junior doctors and support staff working in these hospital settings, from the precise technique of inserting tiny cannulas into newborn babies, to counselling remote communities on viral outbreak prevention. In particular, this placement highlighted the financial costs of sending kids to Adelaide for treatment, and the massive benefits of being able to provide care in town.

I ended the semester for 2 months in the more remote town of Cummins, a community surrounded by farmlands 70km North of Port Lincoln. Under the guidance of the local GPs, I was able to attend cardiac arrest resuscitations, suture farming accident wounds, remove skin lesions and care for the local aged care home built into the hospital. Here, I learnt to think quickly on my feet, and how to practice medicine without the rapid turnover pathology results and imaging studies. What we lacked in equipment was more than made up for by the vast breadth and depth of the rural GPs who we worked alongside. I have so much respect for the volunteer paramedic crew working throughout this district, from their dedication to learning critical care skills in limited spare time, assisting to train us medical students and providing invaluable support in the hospital emergency department. I’ve learnt the local nurses are the backbone of the hospital and community and are always the first port of call for our never-ending questions.

Across the semester, I have been privileged to be welcomed into many different communities across rural and remote South Australia. I am grateful for the lessons learned and experiences gained, which I hope to take into my care as a more compassionate and holistic focused practitioner in the future. During semester 2, I look forward to continuing my connection with the Cummins and Port Lincoln Community, as I prepare for placements across Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln.

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