In my rural week in 2021, I travelled to Young and spent several days there, including attending a Rotary Club dinner event, following a GP in clinical practice, and meeting emergency workers for dinner. I now have the privilege of returning to Young for the entirety of 2023. I am applying for this scholarship for several reasons, but especially because of the positive experience I had meeting the Rotarians of Young in this short visit. Frankly, I am already going to seek out these Rotary connections during my year in the town, but this scholarship would make this an easier task. I have a history of volunteering for regional town organisations such as a community improvement group, St John Ambulance, and for a rural op-shop, and I will be attempting to volunteer with the Rotary Club in Young. This scholarship would facilitate this engagement, and I would put effort into attending every event that was available.
Financially, this scholarship would assist me greatly as I move rurally. I am an independent student living far away from home and relying on Centrelink support. I have worked part time (up to 20 hours per week) through medical school thus far to support myself and will not be able to continue working once away from Canberra in third year. In addition, I am getting married on the 1st of December, and will need to support my partner as we both move to Young. This scholarship would assist in the financial transition to rural full-time placement.
I have an extensive background of volunteering, extra-curricular activities, and have worked as the Australian Medical Students Association Representative for ANU for the past year (and as Junior Rep the year before). In these roles, I further developed my interest in rural medicine, which is the sole reason that I choose medicine at ANU above other offers of medical entry. This arose because I was made aware of the opportunities to engage in rural medicine at the medical school. Remote, rural, and regional healthcare is the reason I chose to study medicine, because I believe that the problems in these areas go beyond a shortage of doctors. The perception of patients about rural practise, and the engagement of the public with available health systems are crucial to success in regional locations. I will, with complete certainty, be living and working rurally as a doctor in the future to help correct the distribution shortage of medical staff. This is my passion and purpose for studying medicine. This scholarship would help me engage and have an active stake in the town of Young and give me great reason to return after internship. Thank you for considering my application among others of my peers who I know are also eminently suitable.
My last report covered up to July of 2023, of my placement in Young, NSW. I talked about the plans for the next part of the year, and aspirations such as attending Rotary events, and participating in the local community. Did these predictions come to fruition? Many did! Although, it must be said, medicine was the all-consuming beast it can be sometimes. I did go to a Rotary breakfast at a popular local café, meeting members again whom I had interacted with during the ANU rural week of the first year students. It was nice to chat casually and learn about people’s different jobs (or past jobs if they were retired), and learn about why they had moved to Young or joined Rotary. I remember the friendliness of the group, welcoming not only myself but the other medical student in Young, and warmly engaging with us both.
Soon after this, I attended the local “Glo” festival, which is an annual celebration of lights that happens in the Hilltops region. Incidentally, this was the night the Matildas were playing France in the quarter final! There was a large projector screen set up at the festival, and many people were following the game live while enjoying the ambience. Rotary was set up at the festival doing a sausage sizzle and it was nice to see the familiar faces from the café. Quite frankly, probably half of Young turned up, and I bumped into many acquaintances! It is in this way that rural living positively affected me most I think; it is the way that in smaller towns you really get to know people and see them often by chance that cements your place in the community.
Soon after this, it was off and away to the Northern Territory for a remote placement in Yuendumu. This was honestly the highlight of the year – getting to live in and know a strong Warlpiri culture that has attempted to resist colonisation and imperialist ideas for hundreds of years. The community was warm and welcoming, and the healthcare very interesting. This placement lasted four to five weeks, and during that time we saw many Flying Doctors retrievals from Yuendumu to Alice Springs. This was good perspective, as Young had previously seemed rather isolated, but was almost urban in comparison to the NT! Although resources can be scarce in regional NSW, it is still relatively well supported by nearby cities. During this trip we also drove to Alice for the Desert Mob art festival, a showcase of Aboriginal style and talent. It was intriguing to look at and recognise the differences of art regions in the NT.
The year moved on and became increasingly busy. After the Northern Territory, work started on preparing for practical and written exams and getting the extensive portfolio signed off. One fun event I did during this time was a walk-through flowering canola fields (a bright yellow trademark of the area around Young). It was rewarding to watch Young green and brighten up during Spring, changing from being rather dreary to fresh and new. There was a good amount of rain over 2023, meaning that the surrounding farms could sow crops effectively.
The year came to a close with weeks of exams and then packing boxes and moving house back to Canberra. It was bittersweet – the year had been a steep learning curve, but the town of Young felt like home. I think I had become adjusted to a rural way of life – to the slower pacing and connection that characterises a life centred around community. It was these communities that made the most impact; medical, church, Rotary, farm. Even the craft market that ran every second Saturday felt like an excuse for Young locals to catch up and have a yarn.
So, what is a key takeaway from my rural placement in Young during third year? The need to keep and form human connections inside and out of medicine. It is this philosophy that I will try to take into my future career: to avoid depersonalising medicine or healthcare. Overall, Young was just a great learning process. It grew me as a person and a healthcare professional and made me want to work in the country. This was a success story! The support of the Rotary community and this scholarship made the experience better and smoother in many ways – so thank you.