College

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

12 January 2021

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From humble beginnings

From learning to suture on oranges as a Year 10 work experience kid in Cairns to graduating from Medicine, Dr David Uprichard feels he’s come full circle as he heads into his intern year at Cairns Hospital. He has reflected on his time at JCU and offered some advice to budding med students for balancing study and life.

I was actually born in Townsville, but moved to Cairns when I was six years old and I grew up here. In Year 10 I did work experience with one of the GPs at the Redlynch Medical Centre, where he got me to practice suturing. I realised then that medicine could be a pretty fun career and I’ve pursued it ever since.

Growing up in the Far North I really care about tropical, rural and Indigenous health. So when it came time to look for a medical school JCU was the place. It had that focus and it was the only university that offered medicine in the region that I wanted to study in. It was the perfect fit for me.

JCU Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery class of 2020

A taste of rural medicine

I did three big rural placements during my years at med school. They were my first taste of the rural hospital experience, and I’d have to say they were the highlight of JCU medicine.

The first two were in Ingham and my final placement was in Hughenden. I loved them all. I was with a few of my mates in Ingham in second-year and they got us to do a lot of hands-on things and be really involved in the care of the patients. When I went back in fourth-year I knew the doctors, the town and how the hospital worked. It was going back into a very familiar environment. They’re all really great doctors and the placement was very seamless.

My favourite placement though was Hughenden in my sixth-year. Hughenden is a small country town four hours west of Townsville with only one doctor managing both the GP practice and the hospital. It was an amazing experience to see how it was done. The doctor I met out there, Dr Cathy Reto, is an inspiration. She worked as the only doctor in town on a ‘three weeks on, one week off’ basis. She was on-call all the time. She would round in the hospital in the morning, before going to run the GP practice from nine to five. She’d then return to the hospital and manage all the patients there, as well as all the emergencies. I remember one night a lady came in to give birth and Cathy had to stay up all night with her. The next day the GP clinic and the hospital had to close because she’d had no sleep. It was incredible to see the impact that has on a community. I got to do a lot of things while I was in Hughenden as they wanted as much help as I could give. It was great hands-on experience. The highlight for me was probably all the RFDS and helicopter retrievals. They were very exciting for me, though less so for the patients.

The opportunity to have these experiences and JCU’s emphasis on regional, rural, remote and tropical health have had a big impact on me. I have no desire to leave and work in a big city, but I would definitely like to live and work in a regional or rural centre. JCU does a really good job of showing us what life is like in those situations, and just how good it can be.

Hughenden lookout
David Uprichard with RFDS plane
Dr David Uprichard's Hughenden placement

Cairns Hospital internship

I’m interning in Cairns this year (2021). While being a doctor for the first time is pretty scary, I believe I’ll be ok. Because our sixth-year is very much like being an intern, I feel fairly confident going into the hospital.

Having spent my clinical years based there has also given me a big confidence boost. The JCU medicine program has provided that hands-on experience that some other graduates don’t get. I think the rural placements have also helped develop that confidence of managing things at a basic level.

As for my future, my sixth-year of medicine really opened my eyes to the field of critical care, and the anaesthetics and retrieval side of medicine. I think it’s a good mix between lifestyle, procedural and acute care medicine. I’ve looked into the pathway for anaesthetics and you can do all of it in the North.

David Uprichard with his friends
David Uprichard and his friends
David and his friends enjoying their study-fun balance

Advice for budding med students

My best piece of advice for those starting their journey into medicine would be about balance. Make sure you enjoy yourself. If you’re not, step back and think about what you are doing and take in the big picture.

There’s plenty of time to study over six years, but if you’re all study and no fun it’s not going to be a great six years. Make sure you get that study-fun balance right. Most of all, enjoy it. It’s been the best six years of my life so far.
Dr David Uprichard

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