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Medical students flying high thanks to RFDS scholarships

FIVE University of Tasmania medical students have gained invaluable insight into their future careers, thanks to the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s scholarships.

The recipients include: Paul O’Halloran (RFDS Robin Miller Nursing Scholarship), Molly MacDonald (RFDS Fred McKay Medical Student Scholarship), Ashley Brown, Christopher Harvey and Fiona Beer (RFDS Commercial Travellers Association 4th year Medical Student Scholarship).

Royal Flying Doctor Service CEO John Kirwan said the aim of the scholarships was to promote careers in primary health care, and to encourage working in remote and rural areas.

“RFDS are proud supporters of the University of Tasmania’s medical students through seven scholarships we fund and help coordinate each year,” Mr Kirwan said.

“Our scholarships are designed to assist students with the costs of beginning tertiary studies in a new location and provides them with a once-in-a-life-time experience working with RFDS staff.”

For mature-aged student and tradesman Paul O’Halloran, a workplace accident three years ago set the wheels in motion for his desire to undertake a Bachelor of Nursing.

Just weeks from graduating, the 39-year-old has reaped the rewards of his career change, achieving outstanding grades, landing a grad position at the Launceston General Hospital in emergency, securing the RFDS scholarship and finishing off with the valedictory speech at graduations this year.

Thanks to the RFDS Robin Miller Nursing Scholarship, Paul recently completed a two-week placement at Port Augusta, working in some of South Australia’s most remote locations.

“I have an interest in emergency medicine and mental health, particularly in rural and remote areas, so this experience was awesome,” he said.

“We never really knew where we were going, it was a bit of a buzz. It’s also hard on you physically with all the flying, which dehydrates you a bit. I felt pretty lucky to be part of something like that, especially working with the primary health care team.”

Paul’s advice to others wanting to make a change into university study?

“Just do it – go for it. There’s nothing really holding you back and if you find something that you’re really interested in you’ll be fine,” he said.

In her final year completing the Bachelor of Medicine – Bachelor of Surgery, Molly MacDonald received the RFDS Fred McKay Medical Student Scholarship.

With a passion for rural health, Molly was thrilled to receive a scholarship for the two-week placement in Broken Hill (New South Wales), which enabled her to gain an understanding of some challenges rural patients face with accessing health care.

The 24-year-old grew up at the seaside town of South Arm and said her 40-minute commute into “town” was nothing compared to the long journeys some made in remote towns like Broken Hill.

“Broken Hill was an amazing opportunity to see a very different part of the country and the challenges that patients face. Patients were often hours away from the nearest RFDS clinic, and even further from diagnostic tools like an ECG or X-ray,” Molly said.

“We can often take all this for granted in modern medicine. It was great to see how doctors facilitated the best health care in often challenging situations.

Molly said she was grateful for the opportunity the scholarship provided and the chance to explore a part of Australia she otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

“We are really lucky as medical students. The University and our three clinical schools do a great job promoting all sorts of opportunities for medical students which gives you a broader view of the profession as a whole,” she said.

Molly is looking forward to starting her internship at the Royal Hobart Hospital next year and plans to one day work in obstetrics and gynaecology or rural health with an interest in obstetrics and gynaecology.

More info on RFDS scholarship recipients:

RFDS Commercial Travellers Association 4th year Medical Student Scholarship:

Ashley Brown: Ashley grew up on the North-West Coast and is currently in her 4th year of the Bachelor of Medicine – Bachelor of Surgery.  Ashley is a member of the Rural Health Society of Tasmanian Medical Students (Rustica), the Rural Health Club of UTAS and more recently the National Rural Health Student Network. The scholarship will support Ashley while she is undertaking her placement at the North-West Regional Hospital in January.

Christopher Harvey: Christopher’s interest in rural health developed from the time he spent within an Aboriginal community in Kununurra in Western Australia, and his experience in an isolated community with basic medical facilities. After completing his schooling, Christopher worked as a station-hand in outback New South Wales. He has also undertaken a rural placement in Scottsdale and is a member of the Rural Health Society of Tasmanian Medical Students (Rustica).

Fiona Beer: Fiona is also in her 4th year of the Bachelor of Medicine – Bachelor of Surgery and her interest in rural health stems from various activities she has been involved in, including her time as a John Flynn participant at the local district hospital in George Town. In 2006, Fiona initiated a ResMed Centre for healthy sleep which helped rural Victoria participants gain access to diagnosis and treatment for their sleep disordered breathing. This year, Fiona joined the Partners in Palliative Practice committee, which is a representative body for hospice and palliative care in Tasmania. Fiona sees that access to palliative care in rural and remote communities is an ongoing issue and one of the areas for which this committee is attempting to address. The scholarship supported Fiona to undertake a placement at the George Town Medical Centre earlier this month.

Published on: 18 Dec 2018 2:19pm