Lilia O

Rural Medical Scholarship  2015/2016

Western Sydney University, NSW

Bathurst Rural Clinical School, NSW
Awarded Scholarship – July 2015-June 2016

Sponsored by: Rotary Club of Wollondilly North (District 9675)

Lilia OLilia O

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

I am currently in my fourth year of university at Western Sydney University.   I entered medicine a bright-eyed 17 year old and moved down to Campbelltown from my family home in the Hunter Valley.   It was in the first few weeks of first year that I found the Rural Health Union of WSU (RHUWSU) and I was soon elected the first year representative.   RHUWSU is a multidisciplinary student run body that aims to encourage young health professions to consider a career in rural health.   Through RHUWSU I learned that the lack of healthcare professionals in rural areas and the difficulties faced by rural communities.   I began to see parallels between the hometown I loved and these rural communities, and in second year I became the president of RHUWSU, one of the youngest to ever be elected.   I held this position for two years.

During my time in RHUWSU I had the opportunity to travel to many different rural communities talking about the issues of rural health.  While I was there I felt in love with the rural way of life.    I travelled to the Northern Territory twice and saw some of the most remote communities in Australia.   I was appalled at the lack of resources and felt an immense calling to the rural profession.

I also have undertaken 6 weeks of my John Flynn Placement.  My first placement was a the end of 2nd year in Bega, NSW under the guidance of a GP obstetrician.   It was during this placement that I helped deliver my first baby and in that moment my career aspirations ere concreted.   By the time I left Bega I felt as if I knew each and everyone of it’s residents and to this day I still have contact with many of the friends I made during my time there.    My second placement was with another GP obstetrician in Singleton, and once again I was able to welcome more babies into the world.    Whether it was in the delivery room or down the street, a rural community is something uniquely special and for this reason and many more I am extremely excited to begin my year long placement in Bathurst.

Rural Placement – 1st Report

It has been just over 6 months since that day last July when myself and 11 other 4th year medical students made the move from Sydney to Bathurst to complete our rural year. As I arrive back in Bathurst after a short break it feels like I have come home. In the last 6 months I have been welcomed into a community that will now always have a special place in my heart.

I have always been interested in rural health and rural living. Originally from the Hunter Valley, moving to Sydney to begin my medical career was very scary. To make it easier on myself I became involved in as many rural projects as I could and couldn’t wait to embark on my rural year. We had been encouraged and heartened by the rural stories of previous students and I couldn’t wait till it was my turn.

When we started in Bathurst my first rotation was in General Practice. This allowed me a fantastic opportunity to meet many different members of the community each day. As we were working in the community I came to understand the town and what makes it run. We also spent time in surrounding towns with GPs and working alongside allied health professionals. I was blown away by the generosity and supportive nature I found in members of the rural community, something very different to the experiences I had previously in the city. It seemed as though everyone in this town cared about us and wanted us to do well in our chosen career.

My second term was working in the local Aboriginal Medical Service. Once again we were shown extreme generosity, as we were welcomed into this new work environment. This placement gave us an opportunity to understand not only about the health problems faced by Indigenous Australians, but the added problems that can be caused by distance.

I finished out the year in Paediatrics at Bathurst, a thoroughly enjoyable, eye opening and heart wrenching term. The fantastic ‘family’ of nurses, doctors, allied health and patients made this experience all the more pleasant and educational. When comparing smaller rural hospitals to the larger city ones, the feeling of family and familiarity cannot be understated. This I’m sure helps with the healing process for many patients and their families.

Aside from work I have been very busy with all of the social activities on offer in Bathurst. My colleague and I joined the CWA on arrival into town and since then have become fully fledged members, baking for cake stalls, participating in fundraising activities, learning plenty of cooking secrets and most of all making fantastic friends.

As a house we have also added the Thursday night trivia at the RSL to our weekly routine. Through this we have made many friends and contacts that we see regularly around town. The trivia has definitely brought out the competitive nature in this bunch of med students, and this year we have come back with our eye on the prize.

As a group we attend most of the local shows and fetes performing health checks free to the public under the guidance of one of the local GPs. This is another program that allows us to become involved with the community on a different level and give back to the people who have welcomed us so warmly to their town. In a similar fashion some of us were also able to help out in first aid tents throughout the Bathurst 1000 race weekend, working alongside the St Johns Ambulance team and experiencing our first ‘race day’, an iconic event for Bathurst.

Because the hospital is so small it is easy to make friends with almost all of the nurses, doctors, allied health, administration and cleaning staff. In this way I have also been invited to baby-sit and tutor the children of a number of the staff, yet another opportunity to be involved and make great friendships.

Last but not least, my colleague and I thoroughly enjoy attending regular Rotary meetings where we have been once again welcomed with open arms. As Rotary is a community run organisation, for the community, attending meetings means we can learn about the various problems and celebrations occurring in the town and do our part to help out.
I cannot express how thankful I am for my time so far in Bathurst, and how much I am looking forward to these last 6 months. This experience has only reminded me of how fantastic rural practice can be.

Rural Placement – 2nd Report

Back in Sydney now and headed towards the last 6 months of my medical degree I enjoyed taking a moment to think back on the year I was lucky enough to spend in Bathurst. I began the year with a handful of close friends and have left with a dozen or more. The time spent in Bathurst during a formative part of our career was not only enriching for our professional life but for our personal life as well.

After returning from summer holidays and overseas electives the last 6 months in Bathurst flashed by in a blur as we hurtled towards our final exams. I finished my clinical placements with a general medical and general surgical term with a superimposed oncology term running throughout. The support and tuition we received from our mentors, the head professors at Bathurst Base Hospital, was second to none. We were fully involved in the team of doctors and nurses working at the hospital and received specalised tutorials and study groups in preparation for our exams and future careers.

Despite our heavy workload and looming exams we tried to make the most of our free time in Bathurst.

As a group we went hiking around the local area, and learnt the stories of the Indigenous people of the area as well as the first European settlers. We also took the time to go swimming in the local swimming holes, enjoyed some fine dining and music at local jazz nights, went horse-riding at a local trail riding farm and made sure to taste test as many of the local restaurants as we could.

We continued to provide free health checks at local school fetes and shows under the guidance of the local General Practitioners and participated in joint events with students from Charles Sturt University and Notre Dame. I continued my work with the local CWA branch helping out at a number of events most notably the Royal Bathurst Show. I was lucky enough to receive 3rd place at the show for my chocolate brownies thanks to the wonderful tuition of my close friends at the CWA.

We continued our weekly trivia nights at the local RSL and managed to place first one week much to the dismay of our competitors.

I continued my babysitting and tutoring work, which allowed me to socialise with some of the local doctors outside of our workplace. In addition I continued to attend local Rotary club meetings, giving presentations as to the progress of our time at Bathurst.

On our final night in Bathurst we had a farewell dinner and presentation with all of the doctors, mentors and administrative staff who had helped us through our time at Bathurst. This event was especially touching as many of our teachers and friends spoke kind words to one another. At this evening I was lucky enough to receive the Ben Chifley award for Community Involvement.

The moment in which I realised that I had become a true member of the Bathurst community was just a simple afternoon as I was leaving the hospital. On my path from the medical ward across the road to our house I passed no less than 4-5 people who greeted me with a smile and a wave. Over my 12 months in Bathurst I had gotten to know these people and they had gotten to know me. That I believe is the true meaning of community involvement. Another example of this was when our friends at the CWA threw us a farewell dinner and had personalised aprons made up with our names. My time in Bathurst was not just fun or professionally rewarding, it formed a major part of my medical degree and reaffirmed once more my love for rural communities and rural medicine. As I prepare myself to head off into internship and beyond, my time in Bathurst will be a reminder to me of why I have chosen a medical career. I hope one day to return to the country to give back a little bit of the kindness they have shared with me. The Rotary club, their support and scholarship allowed me the contacts and most importantly the time to allow these friendships to develop.