Bringing a family focus to a medical degree

JCU Medicine student Julia Jacob while on placement.

Supplied by Julia Jacob.

Written By

Rachelle McCabe


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

18 October 2023

A personal pursuit

Julia Jacob can remember accompanying her mother to her obstetric appointments before her little sister was born. She was fascinated. She was also only four-years-old.

The fifth-year JCU Medicine student says she’s wanted to be a doctor for as long as she can remember, and whilst she loves everything about the degree, her reasons for pursuing medicine are also deeply personal.

“A lot of my inspiration and motivation comes from seeing and experiencing numerous health challenges within my family,” Julia says.

Observing the power and effectiveness that talented health professionals have had within her own family unit has deepened the dedicated student’s resolve.

As a Townsville local, Julia says the rural and practical focus of the JCU Medicine degree also appealed to her.

“The rural focus was important to me. I’ve grown up witnessing some of the disparities that still exist for regional people — for example, people having to fly to Brisbane to access health care. I definitely saw how that affected my own family.”

JCU Medicine students at UniX Townsville.

Building confidence through experience

Julia and her cohort will graduate at the end of 2024 and with the bulk of her medical degree now complete, she reflects on her placements, what she’s learned so far, and what’s in store for 2024, her final year.

“It was two General Practice placements that stand out as key learning experiences,” Julia says.

“I’ve definitely seen a lot so far. My very first GP placement in first year stands out because I was still very queasy about certain medical procedures,” she says.

“But in that two-week placement I went from nearly fainting when witnessing a procedure to actually participating in the procedures, with assistance, obviously.

“That was a real moment for me, when I realised I can do this.”

From the reading to reality

Her GP placement this year, at Health and Wellbeing North Ward, saw Julia take on extra responsibilities as a fifth-year student.

“This year I’ve learned so much. I was able to see patients independently, I was able to talk to the patients about what I believed was appropriate management for their conditions. It finally felt like I was a doctor.”

Julia has also spent several weeks on placement at the Townsville University Hospital, rotating through the medical wards.

“I have been absolutely loving my placements as a fifth year. I am enjoying being part of the team and immersing myself in patient care. I’ve especially loved being able to spend extra time with patients and learning about them, which then helps inform our management.

Julia says a particular highlight has been seeing the range of specialties available within medicine.

“Although I am figuring out which areas I won't pursue, I am still interested, and eager to learn and understand the power of multidisciplinary teamwork,” she says.

“I particularly enjoyed my time with the renal team (at the Townsville Hospital) as my mother, a renal nurse, taught me so much and inspired a love for nephrology within me. It was also lovely to work with the team she used to work with.

“This year it’s been almost 100 per cent placement, which is good because now I am learning while on the job.

“We will be extending on what we’ve learned this year, so I’ll do my rural placement and I’ll also do my elective next year, which will be medical oncology and radiation oncology. We haven’t been exposed to a lot of oncology so I’m looking forward to that learning curve.”

Julia Jacob (left) while on placement in Sarina.

Supplied by Julia Jacob.

Future fields

Julia is excited about where her degree takes her during placement opportunities as well as throughout her career.

“I am really looking forward to Palm Island. The university was unable to place students there this year so we are still not entirely sure if I will be definitely go there, but wherever I end up, I will learn and have so much fun,” Julia says.

As for the future direction of her career in medicine after graduation, Julia says plenty of fields are of interest at the moment.

“I just want to see everything, learn as much as I can and then I’ll make a decision from there. I do have a few interests but I’m keen to pursue the rural aspects of medicine and see what develops,” she says.

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