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Written By

Andrew Cramb

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

14 October 2021

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Bursary recipient’s journey from city to the outback

Before starting Medicine at JCU, Lachlan Colledge had never even visited North Queensland. With the Sunshine Coast his furthest drive north, he knew making the switch from Brisbane to Townsville would be quite the adjustment. He also knew it was where he needed to go to pursue his passion for improving the health of remote communities in need. Now, as a recipient of the prestigious Lynn Kratcha Memorial Rural Bursary, Lachlan is delving even deeper into rural and remote medicine.

Born and raised in Brisbane, Lachlan’s exposure to rural and remote health was short, but it left a lasting impression. It was a high school trip to Cambodia and work experience at a family friend's rural GP practice that instilled in him a desire to go where there was an unmet need for doctors.

“It made me think 'if you want to be a doctor who really helps people, wouldn’t it be great to do that in places with the greatest need?'” Lachlan says. “I feel that there is the most need in rural and remote communities due to the maldistribution of doctors.

“I'm interested in emergency medicine in critical situations, such as in remote communities and overseas for organisations like Medicine Sans Frontier. I knew the best place for pursuing this passion was JCU because of their focus on rural and remote medicine,” Lachlan says.

Lachlan (centre) and fellow bursary recipients with College Dean Prof Sarah Larkins (far right) and Head of Clinical School, Townsville, Prof Tarun Sen Gupta (far left).

Building on the passion through rural placements

Now in his second year of study, Lachlan has done both core and elective rural placements. Following a GP placement in his first year, Lachlan chose an elective placement at Yulu-Burri-Ba Aboriginal Corporation for Community Health (Yulu-Burri-Ba), a primary health care service located on Stradbroke Island, off the coast of Brisbane.

“That placement was such an amazing experience. I learned about a way of doing medicine that goes beyond ‘doctor sees the patient and then off they go’. At Yulu-Burri-Ba, it’s more complex and there are a lot of community projects and initiatives that go into improving health outcomes.

“I remember driving around town with the Aboriginal Health Worker, who would be poking his head out the window and having a yarn to everyone. That experience made me think about the interconnectedness of rural and remote communities. I see a lot of value in that connection from a preventative health care perspective. I want to be the kind of doctor who builds relationships with their patients and gets involved in community projects.”

Inspired by this placement, Lachlan applied for a Lynn Kratcha Memorial Rural Bursary to further explore rural and remote medicine. The bursary was founded in 2001 by Dr Lynn Kratcha, a rural doctor from North Dakota USA, who undertook training in North Queensland. The bursary provides second-year students with the funding for an additional rural placement to select locations.

While COVID-19 restrictions mean the usual bursary placement location of North Dakota is currently unavailable, second-year students are still given the opportunity to experience rural health and community in places like Thursday Island, Weipa and St George.

Lachlan was one of six recipients of the bursary based on a written application, interview process and presentation at an awards ceremony in August. He says he’s proud to receive the award and is excited for what it will mean for his journey in medicine.

“It’s great to be recognised as someone passionate about rural medicine. I think it will be really valuable for me going forward, having something like this to my name. The unique experiences of this placement will increase my clinical knowledge and broaden my horizons in future career opportunities,” Lachlan says.

“I am looking forward to the Lynn Kratcha placement as I know it will push me out of my comfort zone. For me, I feel like the fast-paced nature of this type of work is the best place to learn, even though it’s quite a stressful environment.

The bursary will also provide Lachlan with the opportunity to explore more of beautiful North Queensland and make the most of the experiences on offer in his placement location.

“I’m looking forward to driving through rural and remote Australia, to check out the sites and look around, because to be honest, I haven’t seen much of Queensland yet! I think also during my placement the bursary will help alleviate some of the financial pressures – I know a lot of doctors in these areas love taking the students out to certain places so the bursary will give me the freedom to explore!” Lachlan says.

Lachlan is looking forward to making the most of the clinical and community experiences that only come from a rural or remote placement. While he knows everyone has their own passions in medicine, he’s a big advocate for rural medicine and has some words of encouragement for his fellow students:

“Think about the type of doctor you want to be. If you’re keen to form relationships with your patients, see them across their lifetime, and connect with them on a deeper level, then rural medicine is the thing for you. Because you have that continuity of care you get to see the results of your input and how you’re changing peoples’ lives. I think that’s pretty awesome to pursue as a career,” Lachlan says.

You can find out more about the Lynn Kratcha Memorial Rural Bursary and see the impact it has made to past recipients here: www.jcu.edu.au/scholarships-@-jcu/search/lynn-kratcha-memorial-rural-bursary

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