Dr Merrilee Frankish is an eternal student at heart. A passion for learning coupled with a dedication to teaching the next generation motivated her to study a Graduate Diploma of Health Professional Education. As a Rural Generalist with a speciality in obstetrics, Dr Frankish is no stranger to continuously studying to maintain her skills and knowledge.
“I’m addicted to study,” she says. “I found the Graduate Diploma really useful. The course was very wide-ranging and I was able to meet inspiring people and clever, gifted individuals who serve the community and the world in wonderful ways.”
While studying, Dr Frankish worked full-time as a Senior Medical Officer at Mareeba Hospital (one hour west from Cairns). She did one subject per semester and graduated with a Graduate Diploma of Health Professional Education at the end of 2016.
“I had left general practice and moved to a hospital where I had a far greater teaching role,” Dr Frankish says. “I was also doing volunteer work in Papua New Guinea with health workers and I was teaching people who had many different sorts of learning styles and I needed to learn a lot about that.”
The course provided Dr Frankish with knowledge, strategies and skills to improve her clinical teaching. She also learned about different learning processes and ways to engage learners. Dr Frankish says these skills have come to the fore during her work, including when students come to Mareeba to complete their rural placements and when she teaches in Cairns.
“It is good to learn about how adults learn,” she says. “We are teaching a different generation who have different ways of learning. Health Professional Education also opens up possibilities if you want to work in developing countries because it’s better if we go there with a focus on education, rather than just on treatment.”
Dr Frankish has put her skills into practice while doing volunteer work in Papua New Guinea. She noticed her teaching improved when she used strategies she had learnt during her studies.
“The emphasis is on retention, not just about imparting facts,” Dr Frankish says. “The strategies were more interactive and case-based than didactic, so I could also step back and let them take over. The retention from that sort of teaching is huge.”
While Dr Frankish could have graduated earlier with a Graduate Certificate of Health Professional Education, she is glad she progressed to complete the Graduate Diploma. She enjoyed the more rounded education she received and became particularly interested in subjects that covered leadership and empowerment.
“The Graduate Diploma has greater breadth,” Dr Frankish says. “I think it’s really exciting to have that opportunity to study again and learn all the techniques they have now. It’s really good to be involved with university studies so you can actually empathise and understand where students are coming from and be part of it.”
Dr Frankish says the course would be especially useful for GP supervisors, Senior Medical Officers and health professionals who did not experience interactive learning while at university. She also recommended the course for people who hold mentoring or leadership positions.
“It’s a very useful degree for them because this has a lot about pastoral care and selection,” Dr Frankish says. “It gives you a better grounding when looking after interns and trainees. We have to learn about different aspects of educating the next generation.”
Dr Frankish had previously completed a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at JCU. Her prior experience at the university and interactions with JCU students prompted her to study her Graduate Diploma there — and she hasn’t ruled out going back for more.
“At this stage, I’m taking a year off but I’ve been requested many times to continue on to complete a Masters of Health Professional Education,” Dr Frankish says. “The option is there for the future.”