Neuro in his sights

Wed, 8 Jan 2020

For JCU medicine graduate James Coventon, a fourth year medical school lecture on stroke would open his eyes to the world of neurology and potentially determine his future.

“They gave us some great lectures and we had this massive one on complex strokes.  I really enjoyed sitting down and nutting it out and drawing it so I could work through it in my head.  I hadn’t liked neuro before then, but it really changed my opinion,” Dr Coventon said.

From that lecture, Dr Coventon would go on to explore neurology further in his fifth year before doing half of his sixth year elective in neurology and the other half in ophthalmology.

“It's one of the few areas in medicine that is cognitively hard to get your head around.  A lot of medicine is quite straight forward and logical, but neuro is one of those areas that is actually difficult to learn.  I really enjoyed that challenge in med school.

“Then through my interest in neuro I discovered that I really liked the eyes, so I honed down into ophthalmology and had some great experiences with that as well.”

The former Ignatius Park College school captain will take the next step in pursuing his future in the field when he takes up an internship with the Townsville University Hospital.  His first rotation?  Neurosurgery.

A Townsville boy through and through he said the decision to stay local for his intern year was an easy one.  Despite also considering Brisbane as an option, the positives of remaining in the north outweighed any move.

“Internship has a massive learning curve to overcome, but that sort of flattens out a little bit if you take away some of the factors that make it steeper, like having to get to know a new city and a new system.  It’s much easier to learn how to be an intern in a setting that you are comfortable with,” Dr Coventon said.

“I am already familiar with the hospital which will make it much easier. I’ve spent a lot of time there already, and while there is plenty more for us to learn about how it works, that exposure has prepared us quite well.”

He believes JCU’s emphasis on clinical exposure and rural placements throughout its medicine degree has also prepared the new class of doctors well.

“I had a great time at university.  It really enable us to develop personally, professionally and academically.  If I had my time again I wouldn’t change anything,” he said.

“The rural experiences were great.  If anything was ever going to convince me to go into rural medicine it would be those.

“You get to do more than you normally would as a med student in a larger hospital.  You are thrown in at the deep end, but are still well supported.  You get to see your own patients and really do a lot of work yourself.  At the same time you are fortunate to have really great supervisors supporting you.

“Drawing on what I learnt during those medical placement experiences, I’m going to be a much better intern now than I would have been.”

As for putting that experience to good use, Dr Coventon said he’s more than ready to take his next step with the Townsville University Hospital.

“I’ve seen what interns do.  I’m not really nervous, just excited to get started.”