Written By

Rachelle McCabe

College of Medicine and Dentistry

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

28 April 2023

Related Study Areas

Reflections from six years of Medicine study

After six gruelling but rewarding years of study, Dylan Boggild is now a doctor. For the JCU Medicine Class of 2022 graduate, this new reality has taken a while to sink in. Settling into his next chapter as an intern at Townsville University Hospital, Dylan reflects on the unique and challenging opportunities provided by his JCU medical degree.

From receiving the prestigious Dr Kerry Kelly award just before graduation to running an Innisfail hospital ward – and feeling capable of doing so – in his final placement, to stitching up stab wounds in a sorely underfunded Namibian public emergency department in the middle of the night in his third year; Dylan’s student experience has been incredibly memorable.

As he continues his training journey at Townsville University Hospital with a view to pursuing physician training in the future, Dylan says all the experience he gathered as a student culminated in him feeling prepared and excited to embark on his career.

We asked Dylan to tell us about some of the highlights of his time at JCU and share some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Growing into a medical professional

I’ve found it hard to put into perspective just how much things can change over the years you spend studying for a medical degree.

You start this journey fresh out of high school with little to no real-life experience and finish six years later with a couple of extra letters in front of your name and the realisation that now when someone calls out "Get Help!" - that’s you, you’re the help…

So much can happen in that time, and we change so much as individuals and professionals as we are exposed to a wide variety of different communities, practices, cultures and opinions during our learning and clinical placement.

I am forever grateful for the broad variety of clinical situations I was exposed to as a student. From working alongside specialists in state-of-the-art Oncology services at Townsville University Hospital to working side by side with the Royal Flying Doctors Service to extract critically unwell patients from remote North Queensland communities, to suturing up stab wounds at 3 am at an underfunded hospital in Namibia.

Even the day-to-day ward experiences, and the wonderful staff and patients we are privileged to work with every day help us build resilience and confidence to step up as the health professionals of tomorrow.

My final placement in Innisfail was a highlight because I basically was tasked with running the ward for the day and, for me, that’s when it clicked in my head and I realised "Oh wow this is what I’m about to be doing for a living, I can do this".

Tough lessons learned in an underfunded hospital in Africa

In 2019, I was privileged to undertake my third-year Emergency Medicine placement at the Katutura Hospital, a public hospital in Namibia, Africa. My fiancée Katja Serrer, a Namibian citizen studying in Australia, introduced me to her aunt, a Namibian Neonatologist, who helped me contact the correct people and I was able to secure a two-week placement.

I worked alongside a dedicated team of healthcare staff on a full-time roster caring for some of the 120,000 people living in the area. I experienced first-hand the challenges of working within a sorely underfunded public health system and public hospital.

On my first day, I found out the emergency department shared an ECG machine with the internal medicine unit on the other side of the hospital, and that the ED did not have a functioning defibrillator.

There were four emergency bays and two 'resus' (resuscitation) beds and the line of patients waiting to be seen stretched out the door and around the corner, never seeming to end. Despite this, the medical and nursing staff endured to provide care to some of the most under-served patients in the world.

Namibia also exposed me to many ‘first-time’ medical experiences.

It was my first time independently working up, correctly diagnosing and treating a patient (a bleeding peptic ulcer); my first time performing CPR; my first time doing night shift working from 8 pm to 8 am; my first, second, third etc. time seeing and treating stab wound patients who would come to the ED on night shifts, and my first time actually feeling like a doctor.

I also took time to explore Katja’s beautiful home country with her family. We explored the city, went on road trips and game drives, stayed at beautiful lodges and made a trip to Cape Town for the New Year.

Looking back, my time in Namibia was an invaluable experience, and I’m grateful the staff were so welcoming and supportive. I only wish I could go back with the knowledge and skills I have now and do it all again.

Dylan with his partner Katja on his elective placement in Africa
Dylan on tour while on his elective placement to Namibia
Dylan and his fiancée Katja exploring South Africa and Namibia during his third-year Emergency Medicine placement at Katutura Hospital, Namibia.

A flair for teaching recognised and rewarded

Prior to graduation, Dylan was awarded the prestigious Dr Kerry Kelly Prize. The prize honours Dr Kelly, an Intensive Care Registrar recognised for her exceptional work teaching junior clinical medical students and is awarded to a sixth-year medical student who demonstrates a similar flair for teaching.

I was proud to receive the Dr Kerry Kelly Prize as it was something I had put a lot of effort into. I have always enjoyed teaching as a way of helping myself learn whilst helping others. This interest began when I undertook the Tutoring in Health elective in my third year and subsequently went out to assist with tutoring pre-clinical subjects such as TIN, Pharmacology and Emergency Medicine alongside engaging and dedicated lecturing staff.

I have found opportunistic bedside clinical teaching sessions to be some of the most engaging and rewarding opportunities whilst on placement, as you often receive one-on-one teaching on real-life pathology right in front of you, not just in a textbook or lecture slides.

A message to future students: speak up, ask the questions

I remember when I was in my pre-clinical years, looking up to the clinical students as these god-like epitomes of knowledge and clinical acumen and questioning how on earth I would reach that level.

Shortly after I remember reaching fourth-year and still feeling like I didn’t know a thing, looking up to the sixth-years on my rural placement and marvelling that these guys are basically doctors now.

And now I am a doctor. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of where you are in your medical school journey, and regardless of your aspirations, have a little faith in yourself. If you put the work in, show up on time, and start the assignments early, you’ll be ok.

And if you’re sitting in a lecture theatre, watching the microphone get passed from person to person as the lecturer desperately waits for someone to answer their question - just have a crack. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong, the best way to learn things is to get them wrong first. Even so, the lecturers will remember you as someone who was always keen to try, and that’s more valuable than you might think.

What’s next?

After I've completed my internship, the plan is to pursue physician training as I have a keen interest in medical oncology.

I was anxious and apprehensive to start my medical career, but most of all excited to start working as a doctor. I’m sure the skills and knowledge I’ve gathered as a student, and the ongoing support of my peers and supervisors will help me make the most of my new career as a doctor in North Queensland.

Discover JCU Medicine

Make an impact on the health care of people living in regional, rural and remote communities of Queensland.