A/Professor Stephanie Brown

Rural Medical Scholarship 2015/2016

Western Sydney University (NSW)

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

Sponsored by: Rotary District 9750

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

I’ll happily admit that over the almost three and a half years of medicine to date it has been challenging to balance the demands of study with those of supporting myself, especially as a mature-aged self supporting student.   That said, finally studying medicine has been the beast decision of my life, and the challenge is more than worthwhile!

Receiving the scholarship from Rotary would significantly lessen the amount of work I’d be needing to undertake.   this would allow more time for study, more time for engagement in the rural community, and more time to achieve a healthy study/life/work balance.

Study: Study in Medicine is an endless task – there is always more content, more detail, and new developments.   As a self-supporting student, there are times when I know that I’ve had to prioritise work to support myself over study, and while it’s a necessary decision it’s not one I ever like to make.

Community engagement: I enjoy actively participating in activities designed to promote health, to promote medicine, and to promote rural health and medicine.   I’ve been to Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory wit the University’s rural health club, and I’ve participated in many open days and the like designed to promote health and health careers to students of varying ages.

I have little doubt that many opportunities will arise in Bathurst that will allow us as medical students to engage with community activities – and the support of this scholarship will no doubt allow the ability to say yes to almost all that are offered, instead of a selected number.

Life balance:  There is significant research showing that medical students and doctors are poor at ensuring they maintain their lives outside of study and work.   Extra support will make it a little easier to ensure that I still get some time to go for a bike ride, a game of tennis and help maintain that important balance.

Rural Placement – 1st Report

Before my rural medical rotation, I’ve lived in both Western Sydney and Inner Sydney, as well as overseas in England and Ireland – but I had never lived West of the Blue Mountains, and certainly nothing approaching ‘rural Australia’.

Probably the real highlight of my rural placement to date is that I’ve never felt more welcomed into a community. Firstly, by fantastic staff from Western Sydney University, both administrative and professional staff, who have provided excellent education and support. Secondly, by the Bathurst Rotary Club, the club that myself and the other local Rotary Scholarship recipient selected to attend, who have provided a friendly atmosphere and fantastic encouragement, as well as a real sense of community.

Finally, by the broader community as a whole! Especially – every person and or patient who we’ve dealt
with in a health-care capacity – almost every interaction starts with people being excited that we’re medical students from the city, and then asking if we like the area and if we think we’ll come back to practice at the end of our studies.

Early in our stay, we were invited by one of our Doctors who also runs a farm to visit his place for a day focused around farms – and farm safety. We drove tractors, learnt about farm animals, and most importantly, saw what the common hospital & GP presentations would likely be from farm injuries.

Medical placements completed so far have focused on general medicine, surgery and oncology. It has to be said that the team teaching and mentoring us while placed rurally have been truly excellent. Being more generalist in nature is great from the perspective of a student – there’s simply a wider variety of patients and presentations to experience.

As a group, we’ve enjoyed getting involved in the local community. Medically, one of the highlights has been being part of the Western Sydney University health check program, visiting local community shows and performing free health screening checks for a welcoming public. Socially, we’ve become regulars at the local RSL trivia night, and tried a bunch of local activities including archery, golf and bushwalking.

Looking through photos from the time, there’s been too many experiences to describe in detail. Just some of the other highlights have included:
–      Being invited by the local MP to a corporate suite at the Bathurst 1000 car races, as well as regular walking and cycling around the iconic circuit
–      A kangaroo hopping across our front lawn (a rare occurrence, it has to be said)
–      The first snow in Bathurst town centre in ~20 years – and a day off to experience it
–      Seeing a number of medical presentations for the first time
–      Traveling to remote communities to provide clinic services

Rural Placement – 2nd Report