Written By

Janine Lucas


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

30 August 2022

Related Study Areas

Shared sense of gratitude

James Cook University student Ella Cobon’s interest in a medical career was inspired as a Year 11 volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, talking to the families of rural children flown in for treatment at Townsville University Hospital.

“Though their stories ranged from farm and quad bike accidents to dangerous infections, there was a shared sense of gratitude for both rural health care and retrieval medicine,” says Ella, who is in the third year of a JCU Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree.

“Most of the families had been rushed out of home with a sick child and evacuated either by ambulance, helicopter, or plane – their homes now hundreds of kilometres away. Knowing that JCU specialised in the themes of rural, remote and Indigenous medicine made it a perfect fit for me.”

Ella, a Pimlico State High School graduate, grew up in Charleville and Townsville. “A lot of my family are from Stanthorpe, and I loved spending time there growing up. I was lucky enough to go on two incredible exchanges during high school: Alberta in Canada, and northern France.”

Young woman holding daschund in hospital room
Group of medical students in scrubs on basketball court holding a sign that says Station 3
Left: Ella Cobon at the Collinsville Hospital with Maggie, one of the support dogs. Right: JCU med students Geraldine Le, Ruturaj Vaidya, Anoushka Kothari, Daniel Yuan, Ella Cobon, Adi Enjeti and QLDMSC Far North Queensland Representative Reece Martis at the Queensland Medical Students' Council Emergency Medicine Competition on the Gold Coast.

One of Ella’s favourite uni experiences so far was being part of JCU’s six-member team in the 2022 Queensland Medical Students’ Council Emergency Medicine Competition on the Gold Coast. Another was her second-year rural placement in the small mining town of Collinsville, 85km west of Bowen, where she got to be part of rural emergency care teams.

Best thing about the placement

“As Collinsville is a town of just over 1,000 people, the hospital was quite small and flew a lot its emergency patients to either Mackay or Townsville. I was very fortunate to observe and participate in many LifeFlight procedures. Being a part of the patient’s journey from presentation to immediate care, and then to transfer, was a remarkable experience.”

Favourite experiences

“My most memorable experiences were when I was a part of the emergency care teams. One afternoon, the other student and I were called out to join an ambulance run. It was the first time I had been in an emergency situation. Being involved in the procedures and decisions was an invaluable learning experience as it allowed us to apply everything we learnt in a fast-paced situation. We took vitals and did an ECG on the patient while taking them to the hospital and then joined the team of doctors. On another day, we were a part of the team that cared for a paediatric snake bite. Applying knowledge from RRITH (JCU’s second-year Rural, Remote, Indigenous and Tropical Health subject), we were able to participate in first aid and the lead-up to administration of antivenom.”

Skills put into practice

“I was able to practise the majority of the clinical skills I had learnt, such as injections as well as cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal examinations. In addition, I was given many opportunities to take patient histories upon arrival at the emergency department and present them to the doctor. Shadowing the allied health professionals such as the physiotherapist and podiatrist allowed me to revise and apply anatomy.”

Golden piece of advice

“Putting yourself out there and saying yes to every learning opportunity. I left my contact number at the nurses’ station and the ambulance office, and asked them to call me if there was ever something I could participate in. It’s such an amazing four weeks and you can really maximise your learning by asking around and showing initiative.”

Other uni highlights 

“Being part of the JCU team for the Emergency Medicine Competition at Bond University earlier this year was one of my favourite experiences in med so far. My teammates had a wealth of knowledge and it was a privilege to learn with them and to represent JCU. As a preclinical student looking up to the clinical students and seeing how confident they were in their skills, it made me excited for what I have to learn in my future years. I was able to apply my knowledge from years one and two, and placing fourth overall made it an unforgettable experience.”

Your future in medicine?

“I’m still figuring it out! I’ve enjoyed my rural placements and would love to spend more time in those communities. My ultimate goal is to get involved in humanitarian aid, hopefully with Médecins Sans Frontières.”

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