Medical students from the Rural Clinical School (RCSWA) at The University of Western Australia are more likely to work in remote locations after graduating, a recent report has shown, which is having a positive impact on rural and remote communities that often struggle to gain access to medical practitioners.
The Rural Clinical School (RCSWA), a medical placement program funded by the Commonwealth for both UWA and The University of Notre Dame students, has been offered to UWA medical students since 2002, with the students involved spending one year in a rural placement.
The report into the program found that one in five UWA graduates from RCSWA went on to work in rural communities. Of these, 79 per cent went on to work in remote locations, compared to 54 per cent of UWA medical students who did not participate in RCSWA. This year 89 UWA students are enjoying placement through the program.
Dr Melody Miolin, a UWA graduate who took part in RCSWA, said the placement had provided her with exposure to rural medicine which made her passionate about rural health and greatly influenced her decision to work remotely as a doctor.
“I studied a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at UWA and was accepted into the RCSWA program in 2007,” she said.
“I spent a year of my studies in Port Hedland, where I was based predominately at Port Hedland Regional Hospital and Wirrika Maya Aboriginal Medical Service. I was exposed to a huge variety of medicine including general practice, paediatrics and obstetrics, and had practical, hands-on learning that I wouldn’t have had in city hospitals.
Dr Miolin said she was mentored by rural doctors who were passionate about what they did, and who inspired her to work in the country after she graduated.
“I feel privileged to be part of the Broome community where I am current working for Kimberley Aboriginal Medical service, and I have a job that offers a huge variety every day,” she said. “I wanted to pass on my enthusiasm about rural and remote medicine to the next generation of medical students so I’m now the RCSWA Broome Coordinator of the program.”
UWA Associate Professor Medical Education Denese Playford said the program had many benefits for students and for the WA Medical workforce.
“Australia, like many other countries, suffers from a rural and remote doctor shortage,” Professor Playford said.
“Through this program, we are not only offering students a stimulating, engaging and clinically rewarding experience; we’re helping increase the number of practitioners assisting remote communities.”
Associate Professor Medical Education Denese Playford (UWA The Rural Clinical School of WA) (+61 4) 21 562 872
Jess Reid (UWA Media and PR Officer) (+61 8) 6488 6876