Emily O'Donnell and Cameron Douglas, two of the 13 incoming students from The University of Sydney’s medicine program, got their healing hands on the State MP for Lismore, Thomas George (seated), and the Federal Member for Page, Kevin Hogan. They were on the first day of their year-long North Coast clinical placements. The cohort of 13 students will experience a wide range of clinical settings during their stay.

A group of thirteen undergraduate students from The University of Sydney’s medical school have begun the 2014 placement component of their training under the aegis of the University Centre for Rural Health (UCRH) North Coast.

UCRH coordinates placements for medical and allied health students from The University of Sydney, University of Wollongong and the University of Western Sydney.

“The students have already completed two years of university study in medicine and are now undertaking supervised practical placements,” said Dr Michael Douglas, UCRH’s Director of Education.

“These students, and others who will come here throughout the year, choose the Northern Rivers for their placements because of the excellent reputation of our local health facilities and of the many skilled clinicians who so generously impart their knowledge, and allocate their time for the benefit of the next generation of doctors,” Dr Douglas added.

“The great diversity of experience offered in a regional setting is also a key attraction.

“Research shows that clinical students who do their placement in a regional/rural area are more likely to settle and work in ‘the bush’ after they graduate. So we’re not just helping them to hone their skills but making an investment in the region’s future health care capacity.”

The first day of the students’ taste of local medicine began with a briefing on the role of the UCRH and an outline of their study program for the coming 10 months. During this time they will have clinical placements at Lismore Base Hospital (LBH), Grafton Base Hospital and smaller district hospitals such as Murwillumbah and Ballina, Aboriginal Medical Services, and GP practices. They also undertook a tour of LBH, a key site for their training.

“Supervised experience of this kind is an essential part of becoming a qualified doctor,” Dr Douglas said, “but it’s much more than that. We bring to the students a broad understanding of their role as a professional, as an advocate, with an clear understanding of what it means to be a leader in the community. Also, how they have the capacity to better people’s lives, both individually and at the community level, as they walk along their vocational journey.”

During their placement period the students are exposed to a range of medical procedures and services, such as x ray imaging, cancer care, paediatrics and surgery, through to GP care, Aboriginal health and lifestyle medicine.

“From past feedback, we know that the students who come here benefit greatly from their professional experiences as well as enjoying the wonderful area we live in.

“Many express a wish to come back here to work after they have graduated,” Dr Douglas said.

Both Emily O'Donnell, originally from Washington DC, and Cameron Douglas were living in Sydney prior to choosing the Northern Rivers for their clinical placements, as were all but two of the undergraduates. Of those from rural areas, one hails from Kurrajong NSW, the other from rural SA.

Addressing the group at UCRH, Federal MP Kevin Hogan said he hoped they would “fall in love with the area, as we all have, and come back here to practice after qualifying as doctors.”