Rural Medical Scholarship 2017


James Cook University

Cairns Clinical School
Scholarship Awarded 2017

Sponsored by:
Rotary Club of Townsville Daybreak

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

In my medical school interview I was asked why I applied to JCU. Like most of my peers I responded with “Because  I’m interested in rural, remote and tropical medicine and the health of Aboriginal  and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” Whilst  I was legitimately  interested,  having heard about the Close The Gap Program and knowing of the discrepancies  in healthcare  between rural and city areas, I didn’t understand the enormity of how where we are born in Australia  practically dictates our futures. The environment  and people we grow up around influence our level of education,  cultural beliefs, moral values, health status, religion etc. which sets us on a path that almost predetermines  our quality of life/ expectancy,  health status and access to basic needs. There is a gap in the socio-economic  status, education  level and access to healthcare available to those in rural, remote and Aboriginal  TSI communities that shouldn’t exist in a ‘developed  nation’.

I witnessed  this on placements  in Weipa and Mount Isa, where diabetes and being on dialysis is normalized because you meet more people on it than off it, and where a 31-year-old Aboriginal woman  in palliative care for chronic disease isn’t shocking,  because there are just so many similar stories … The issue of poor health status in these demographics  is multi-factorial  and I am not out to solve it as a medical student.  I am however, passionate about helping others, raising awareness  and trying my best to facilitate  positive changes for the future.

In Mount Isa, the Aboriginal  Health Worker  organized for us to teach some local women about a health issue they wanted to learn about in a culturally appropriate manner, in the hope to empower and help them understand their own health. Through the Teddy  Bear Hospital, we taught children about hygiene etc. so they could go home and teach their families. While we didn’t expect sudden change, we hoped it would enable a relationship to form between us as medical professionals  and the community with the understanding  that if we are to change things, we have to work together.

With the Rotary scholarship,  I hope be better able to focus on my studies knowing this year that I will be financially secure.  I want to go on rural in 6th year and be able to offer health promotion discussions  to the community.  I would like to use to scholarship  to attend the 2017/2018  RDAQ Annual Conference  to be able to learn more about what it is to be a rural doctor, and to finance my 6th year international placement, where I hope to go to Togo, Africa to work in the hospital and participate  in outreach clinics which will include giving educational  talks on topics like hygiene and HIV/AIDS. I feel that the skills learnt on this placement and being immersed in another culture will be transferable  and useful in my future career in Australia.  I’d also look forward to being apart of the local Rotary Community’s  meetings and activities, as well as have their support and guidance. Whist  I’m not exactly sure what the future of my medical career holds, equality  is something  I’m passionate about and becoming a Rural Generalist working for an ACCHO such as Apunipima  in the Cape is an exciting possibility.

Final Report

So this year has been an exciting one for the amount and me I’ve learnt during my placement in Cairns hospital has been quite extraordinary! I started off the year with a 6-week rotation through the medical ward and this was followed by 6 weeks in the surgical theatres where I got to assist in operations and provide post and pre-surgical care. I then participated in the obstetrics and gynaecology rotation where I delivered babies and performed antenatal and postnatal cares and a paediatrics and special care baby unit rotation. Presently I’m apart of the mental health team and I have 6 weeks of general practice to come. All these rotations have presented new challenges, which have tested my ability to think critically, tested my practical clinical skills and my clinical reasoning. As a result of these placements I have become a more competent medical student and have a deeper understanding of the importance of good communication.  My favourite rotation this year was obstetrics, which surprised me. It is definitely a discipline, which I feel would be useful and enjoyable for me as a future regional/rural doctor as babies tend to come where and when they want!

This year, I used some of my rotary grant money to attend the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland’s annual conference, which was held in Townsville. The RDAQ conference was titled ‘Charting New Horizons’ and the focus was on innovative ways to improve health in our rural communities in QLD. Being my first RDAQ conference, I was unsure of what to expect but was presently surprised by the number of students present and there was an informative welcome especially for students. It was a fun and interesting three days of plenaries, smaller breakout sessions and social evenings where we got to meet rural doctors from all around Australia. Overall, the RDAQ conference was a wonderful weekend where I was able to meet a lot of inspirational people, perform a bit of networking, learn about what being a rural generalist is like and what the current challenges existing in rural medicine are and how they may be addressed in the future.

My plans for next year include an extended 20 weeks placement in Atherton, which is one of our rural sites. I’m very much looking forward to being a medical student in a rural hospital. I’ll also be spending 10 weeks in Cairns Hospital and hopefully 10 weeks on an international elective placement, which will hopefully be in Gabon, West Africa at a rural hospital there.

With final exams 8 weeks away however, much of my current focus is on study! Not only in order to pass my exams an progress to my final year of medicine, but more importantly prepare myself to be a valuable doctor to my future patients and future community.