A home away from home in Bowen
As of 2021, fourth-year medicine student, Lara Emmett has passed the halfway point of her degree at James Cook University.
Now entering the clinical years of medicine, with many rural placements on the horizon, Lara admits it has been an incredible journey so far. Having come from interstate to pursue her medical aspirations, she has fallen in love with what North Queensland has to offer.
Feeling welcome in a small town
To kickstart fourth-year, I began with a six-week rural placement in Bowen. The charming, seaside town is home to around 10,000 people and is an hour’s drive north from Airlie Beach. I found Bowen to be remarkable in ways similar to my hometown of Ulverstone, back in Tasmania.
Bowen’s community is rich with character and country town hospitality. Along the coast lies stunning beaches and beautiful coral reefs; perfect for snorkelling. Horseshoe Bay was undoubtedly a highlight for me, where you can visit Sunday Rotary Markets nestled on the shore of a beautiful backdrop. We enjoyed the surrounding walking trails that delivered impressive 360-degree views of the region. In the winter, walkers can catch a sight of the whale migrations from the lookouts, too!
However, the biggest wonder that will catch your eye in Bowen is the Big Mango. Standing 10 metres high, the structure represents what the region is famous for — the world’s biggest mangoes. Bowen’s agricultural sector also includes tomatoes, capsicums and numerous other crops. Within the town’s diverse industries, mining and fishing also play a huge role.
My favourite part about Bowen was how the community embraces newcomers. I was taken aback by how enthusiastic the community were to have us, to welcome us into their home and support us throughout the experience. By the end of day two in Bowen, I had already joined the Bowen Swim Squad and I regularly trained with the crew for the following six weeks. Bowen’s Park Run was yet another highlight, while I also had the chance to let my hair down at Monday night trivia down at the pub.
Growing as a health professional
During my placement days, I spent time alternating between Bowen Hospital and one of the general practices in town. Perched on the hill, Bowen Hospital has elevated views across the town and is equipped with various hospital, clinic, visiting and allied health services.
I had the chance to gain further insight into Indigenous health, meeting with the hospital’s Indigenous health worker and spending time in the community. With an on-site helipad at the Hospital, I seized the chance to meet the retrieval teams and learnt about some of their journeys into such an exciting career.
My interests have always laid within practicing rural and remote medicine upon graduation. Whether it is in emergency medicine, general practice or rural generalism, rural life is where I wish to return because of the people, the impact I can have on the local community, the lifestyle and, of course, the absence of traffic lights.
I strongly encourage any medical student, who is looking at places for a rural rotation, whether they are in second, fourth or sixth year, to apply for Bowen. The community want any and every medical student to experience what this region has to offer. They hope one day, we will return as future doctors and help the community.