Medical students from the University of Wollongong and the University of Western Sydney were face-painted with local ochre during their Aboriginal cultural awareness program at Cape Byron.

In a placement program coordinated by the University Centre for Rural Health (UCRH), a total of 40 senior medical students from the University of Wollongong and the University of Western Sydney begin the 12‐months practical component of their training program in mid-July.  

The students will undertake a rotation of supervised placements at local hospitals, including Lismore Base Hospital, Grafton Base Hospital and Murwillumbah District Hospital, other local hospitals, Aboriginal Medical Services, and GP practices. 26 of the students (18 from UWS, 8 from UOW) started in Lismore, 9 UOW students in Murwillumbah, and 5 UOW students in Grafton.  

Local orientation for the students will include social and cultural activities.

“The students in the new cohorts have already completed two years of university study in medicine and are now embarking on the next important stage of their careers, the mandated practical placements,” said Dr Michael Douglas, UCRH Director of Education.

The UCRH has educational campuses in Lismore, Murwillumbah and Grafton. It coordinates long‐stay placements for medical and allied health students from The University of Sydney, University of Wollongong and the University of Western Sydney, as well as students from many other universities across a range of disciplines.

“These students, and others who will come throughout the year, choose the Northern Rivers because of the reputation of local health facilities and of the many skilled clinicians who generously share their knowledge and 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 helping them to hone their skills as well as making an investment in the regional health care capacity of the Northern Rivers and Australia more generally.”

“Supervised experience of this kind is an essential part of becoming a qualified doctor, but it’s much more than that,” Dr Douglas said.  

“We bring to the students a broad understanding of their role as a professional, and as an advocate, with a 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.