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Basketball, medicine and beyond

Dr Ainsley Walsh with Prof Tarun Sen Gupta at 2020 Oath Ceremony

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Written by

Tianna Graham


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

6 January 2021

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My life story

Dr Ainsley Walsh started her journey into medicine while playing professional basketball for the Townsville Fire. It was the influence of her friend, the team doctor, which sparked her passion for health. Newly graduated from JCU Medicine and ready for her intern year at the Townsville University Hospital, Dr Walsh has reflected on the experiences that have led her to this point and where she hopes to take her career.

I'm a Townsville girl, I grew up here my whole life. I went to Townsville Grammar school. Growing up I was totally into basketball. I played when I was a junior and then played professionally for a few years with the Townsville Fire. While playing professionally, and also completing high school, I had a really good friend who was a sports doctor. She was the doctor for the Australian basketball team, and travelled overseas to the Olympics with them.

My friend was a JCU graduate and gave it such rave reviews. I really liked the program so I applied straight out of school and got in! I was so happy that I had been accepted to JCU, but the basketballer in me wasn’t ready to let go of a professional career. I deferred medicine for a year and continued to play basketball. However, I soon realised my future in the sport was short lived, so I went back to study medicine and it's the best decision I've ever made.

Dr Ainsley Walsh was part of a championship JCU Townsville Fire team
Dr Ainsley Walsh was signed as a JCU Townsville Fire development player
Dr Ainsley Walsh was signed as a JCU Townsville Fire development player then went on to win a championship with the team

Finding a community

Coming to uni and studying medicine is great, because you are always together with your classmates. We’re here for six years, so you build a lot of really good friendships in that time.

I liked always being able to see people and having a real friendly environment to just do the best I can in. You develop people to rely on and lean on and it's really nice know that we have 180 friends now that we didn't have at the start.

I think my highlight from my time at JCU would have to be going away on rural placements. I think that was just so well organised. And it was so fun. I went to Ayr hospital and then Bowen hospital twice. I liked them because you were able to be more independent. And you experienced living away from home, in a small town. Bowen is so beautiful. I went to the beach every day. It was just amazing.

Bowen Hospital is small, but the people are so lovely. And they would always let us do things and get hands on. We were in our second year of medicine, but they would still treat us like we're adults and allow us to do things, obviously under supervision. But we were very much more hands on than we otherwise would be, if we were at the Townsville University Hospital. I felt like it was very welcoming. I really could have gone rural all year round. In sixth-year you can do a whole year of rural if you want to, and I think that would have been awesome.

Beautiful beaches of Bowen

The final year of medicine

The final year of Medicine at JCU is almost like an internship. You get to work in hospitals and rotate around different areas.

I went back to Bowen for 10 weeks. Then I had the other 20 weeks at the Townsville University Hospital. I alternated between palliative care, the emergency department (ED) and anaesthetics. Then I did five weeks in a general medicine, so that could be any ward in the hospital, followed by five weeks of surgery. During that 20 weeks at Townsville Hospital, you get variety and you try a lot of different things.

I really liked the ED. I finished ED and though I could see myself doing that for the rest of my life. That was actually really good for me. Because prior to that, I had never thought of myself as working in emergency. So that was a very good outcome from the year.

I think overall, JCU has taught me independence, which is important because I'll be able to work by myself or in a team, but know my limitations.

I think JCU's program is really structured to work in the topics, which is important because I want to work here. I want to work as a GP, I can definitely see that in the future. So studying here, we get taught all about the conditions that can affect the rural and remote communities of Indigenous populations, which is vitally important. I think without that, you'd really struggle being a good practitioner in Townsville.

It's also helped because we've gotten so much hospital exposure, we have gained so many professional contacts in the hospital over the last three to four years.  Just that alone is invaluable in our future careers. When we are looking at applying for jobs in other places, we can lean on those connections formed on placements in rural towns, in the hospitals. So I think that's been invaluable as well.

I would definitely recommend the JCU Medicine program to anyone. My friend recommended JCU to me, and I would recommend it on. It's a good university. It's six years, which is longer than the other medical schools, but I really think you need those six years, to come straight out of high school, and to grow and be ready to become a doctor. I wouldn't change it and I wouldn't have gone anywhere else.

My advice to first year students is to remember to have fun! I think we all get caught up in that first year of thinking ‘wow we're doing medicine and it has to be stressful. We have to study all the time.’  If I could turn back the clock, I'd tell myself to have a bit more fun throughout, make the most of being at uni, being 18. Enjoying that year of my life.
Dr Ainsley Walsh

Dr Ainsley Walsh with her colleagues at the Townsville Clinical School
Dr Ainsley Walsh working on a resus dummy
Dr Ainsley Walsh with her colleagues at the JCU Townsville Clinical School

Internship and beyond

I'm interning at Townsville University Hospital in 2021. I'm planning on doing ED and a few other rotations. I'm really keen to get started.

I like Townsville and the hospital. So I'm happy that I'm here for another year to try and smooth that transition into working. I’d like to eventually move down to Brisbane for a bit, just to get that bigger city experience. But I think ultimately I'll probably end up coming back to Townsville, because I like it here.

As for specialty, at this stage I’m thinking I might work in the hospital for a few years. If I really love it, I’ll stay and hopefully be working in the ED, then eventually move into GP. They are very similar specialities, except GP is more of your patient interaction. I love dealing with people. So I think I’d be happy with either of those paths. I do, however, feel as though I need to try the hospital first to see if it's for me, and then decide. And if it's not, then GP is perfect, and I will love it. If I do move into GP, like my friend who was the sports doctor for the Australian Basketball Team, then my ultimate goal would be sports medicine and of course going to the Olympics!

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