College of Medicine and Dentistry Medicine and Maple Syrup

Medicine and Maple Syrup

Fri, 4 May 2018
Keane and Beth enjoying the snow in Canada

James Cook University medicine students, Elizabeth Edwards and Keane Henderson travelled to the land of milk and maple syrup for a four week placement in Saskatchewan, Canada.

The pair were two of five recipients of the Lynn Kratcha Memorial Rural Bursary, offered to second year JCU medicine students interested in rural medicine.

“I applied not thinking that I would get it. But I thought there’s no time wasted in trying - and there definitely wasn’t,” said Elizabeth.

The students spent their rural placement in four different towns including Saskatoon, Jack Ross, Fort Qu’Appelle and Prince Albert. The students were very popular among the locals who were smitten by their Australian accents and quirks.

“They rarely get tourists where we were so the patients were so excited to meet people from Australia. It was amazing to be able to meet so many different people from so many different places, each with their own stories,” said Keane.

During the placement, the students volunteered at a student-run health clinic in Saskatoon called ‘Switch’. The building ran as a GP practice during the day but opened after-hours to provide free walk-in clinical and social services to residents.

“At night time the volunteers would cook up food for the homeless people in Saskatoon. Residents would come in for the food but stay for the childcare services, the programming and the medical services,” explained Keane.

“It was just a really amazing program that removed a lot of barriers that people have to accessing healthcare,” explained Elizabeth. “That's what it was all about, removing barriers to make it easier for people who previously couldn’t access healthcare.”

Despite the significant geographical and climatic differences between Canada and Australia, the students recognised strong similarities between the two countries in regards to their Indigenous communities.

“Canada has really similar circumstances to Australia in terms of Indigenous history and how that has affected their Indigenous people. It goes to show that what happened in the past is responsible for the issues that face the Indigenous people today, and what we need to do to help them move forward,” said Elizabeth.

The international placement broadened the students’ perspective on rural health as a universal issue not just isolated to Australia.

“The four weeks have changed my view on how I look at Indigenous health,” said Keane. “Being on the other side of the world and seeing the impacts of colonisation on a population that is still marginalised has really changed my perspective on what we can do to help and how much attention is needed in that area.”

The overseas experience offered the students an unforgettable four weeks of sight-seeing and professional development but they both agreed that it was their interaction with the locals that left a lasting impression.

“I think an important part of learning how to deal with people in a clinical setting is just being able to talk and listen to them,” said Elizabeth. “In the end, it all comes down to the fact that we're all people and we can all learn from each other regardless of where we come from.”

Applications for the 2018 Lynn Kratcha Memorial Rural Bursary are now open. For more information visit Lynn Kratcha Memorial Rural Bursary or contact Shama Mathew on