The winner of a rural award for medical students will head to the UK next year to examine why rural cancer patients have poorer survival rates than their urban counterparts.
Fourth-year student Andrew Webster won the Rural Medical Student of the Year award at the Rural Doctors’ Association of Australia and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine annual conference last month.
He shared the Westpac-sponsored award with Flinders University student Jeremy Wells and won $2000 to help fund his research during next year.
“This money makes a huge difference and hopefully it will ... allow me to do my research full time next year and not have to work ... to support myself,” Mr Webster said.
As part of a UWA research program, he will travel to England in April for a six-month stint at Cambridge University to conduct research into the lower survival rates of cancer patients in country areas.
“I hope that I’ll learn a lot about research, particularly in the area of primary care, from some of the world leaders in the field,” he said.
Born in Narrogin, Mr Webster’s interest in rural health began as a Bunbury school boy when he joined the Rural High School Visit (RSHV) program and last year he was appointed RHSV coordinator on the SPINRPHEX Rural Health Club executive.
He is currently on a John Flynn scholarship placement in Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory, where he will be returning for several weeks each year for the next three years.
When working in health clinics at Bathurst Island in the NT and other remote townships last year, Mr Webster realised that no two areas are the same and that each community has highly variable health care needs.
The greatest challenges facing rural health practitioners are immense stress and inadequate support, he said. “Health workforce and health infrastructure in rural and remote areas is inadequate and often as a result patient outcomes suffer,” he said.
-By Amanda Saunders