Written By

Janine Lucas


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

15 December 2021

Related Study Areas

Milking cows and feeding calves with his supervisor before heading off to work at the Malanda GP practice, JCU medical student Sachin Joshi put the ‘rural’ in ‘rural placement’.

Clinical placements on the Tablelands, Innisfail and Biloela formed some of the best experiences of Sachin’s degree. “I absolutely loved all my rural placements and cannot recommend it enough,” the graduating doctor says. “The experience is unique and unrivalled in terms of opportunity, which is often scarcer for students in larger hospitals.

“I’d happily return to any of these places one day to work as a doctor. Each one was extremely welcoming and made it easy to integrate into the community and feel like part of the furniture.”

As 2021 president of JCUMSA, the peak representative organisation for medical students at James Cook University, Sachin says he’s experienced tremendous growth from advocating for his peers on a local, state and national level through the Queensland Medical Students' Council and Australian Medical Students' Association. Here’s Sachin’s story:

You man in living room
Cattle on dairy farm
Left: Graduating JCU medical student Sachin Joshi after completing his fifth-year exams. Right: A farm morning on placement on the Tablelands. (Photos supplied by Sachin Joshi)

Home of the Black Stump

I grew up in Blackall, the home of the Black Stump! My dad, Dr Viney Joshi, practised as a rural generalist in Blackall and I still have many friends and loved ones there. When I was eight, my mother Molly, brother Mathai and I moved to Pittsworth, a small town about 30 minutes from Toowoomba, for school. Pittsworth and Toowoomba are still home for me and my family.

Having had a first-hand view of the rural life, I was drawn to JCU. It has an unrivalled focus on equipping future doctors with a medical education that enables us to provide holistic care for patients from various backgrounds. My brother was studying law here at the time, so the chance to live and study together was too good to pass up.

Group of performers
Group of performers
The Med Revue crew in 2017 (left) and 2018 (right). Co-convening the 2018 event with friends and fellow graduates Lauren Gomes and Nickolas Robinson was a favourite experience of uni.

JCUMSA and life lessons

There are many highlights from the last six years, but one that really had an impact on me was co-convening Med Revue in 2018 with two great friends, Lauren Gomes and Nickolas Robinson, who are fellow graduates this year. We spent months crafting an incredible show with the best cast and crew to raise just over $5,000 for the Black Dog Institute and Black Rainbow.

Volunteering with JCUMSA through a number of roles over the past four years has been highly rewarding and educational. It has equipped me with skills in communication and networking with colleagues to create large-scale change, inspired by individual ideas. JCUMSA has provided opportunities to work with talented and insightful individuals across many different organisations, including the university.

Through JCUMSA, we worked with the College of Medicine and Dentistry to foster collaboration between students and staff, create more open and transparent lines of communication and build a more supportive environment for all medical students. One highlight was the chance to be a part of the Mental Health Steering Committee, an initiative created by James Cook University to internally review and propose changes to how staff and students’ mental health could be further supported across multiple domains.

Speaking purely from a ‘studying medicine’ perspective, my favourite experiences have come from the many remarkable patients, doctors and other health staff I’ve encountered along the way. There are so many incredible life lessons and experiences that I’ve picked up simply from talking to patients and I’m very grateful for them. Another highlight was a week-long exchange in 2017 to Hong Kong, where I spent the time paired with students from HKU and CHKU Medical Schools to see what studying medicine in Hong Kong is like. This exchange was made possible by the Asian Medical Students Association, and I am still in touch with many of the students I travelled with.

Three people using medical operating equipment
Three men in medical setting
Man with parrot on shoulder
Clockwise from left: Sachin and colleagues practising their skills; Sachin and staff at Mamu Health Centre, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in the Innisfail region; Sachin and friend at Malanda. (Photos supplied by Sachin Joshi.)

3 great placements

Malanda Medical Care

The work | I was able to see patients myself prior to their appointment with the GP, Dr Catriona Arnold-Nott, which was a great experience for a second-year student. I was also fortunate to practise a host of clinical skills including suturing, ear syringing, taking ECGs, and phlebotomy. I had a great time in Malanda and it was truly a unique experience for which I’ll be forever grateful.

Outside work | Being located near a lot of waterfalls, it was only natural to explore the scenic beauty of the Tablelands in my spare time. My supervisor was very friendly and often invited me back to their home among the dairy farms. One morning before placement I helped milk the cows and feed the calves before heading off to the GP practice with my supervisor. Can’t get much more ‘rural placement’ than that!

Innisfail Hospital

The work |As a fourth-year student, I practised a lot of patient clerking and presenting to doctors, as well as collecting bloods and putting in cannulas. We had plenty of patients with lacerations from the banana farms, which meant I got to practise lots of wound care and suturing. I also had the weekly opportunity to perform paracentesis, which is draining excess fluid from the abdomen. The Senior Medical Officers in Innisfail would go to the trouble of providing extra teaching in skills such as bedside ultrasound and echocardiography, as well as practising resuscitation scenarios in paediatric and adult simulated cases.

Outside work |Luckily there were other students in the region as well, so we explored some of the nature spots like the Babinda Boulders and Josephine Falls. Sometimes I liked to just go for walks in town with my headphones to relax. One of the highlights from Innisfail was a weekly board games and pizza night hosted by one of the doctors from the hospital.

Biloela Hospital

The work | As a sixth-year student, you’re often entrusted with more responsibility and thus given access to more opportunities to practise skills. We would work with the other doctors to see patients in ED and determine whether they required referral to a larger centre or could be treated locally through their GP. I performed a lot of cannulations, suturing, blood taking, applying back slabs for fractures and referrals for patients to Rockhampton if they needed a higher level of care. Biloela is a great place to gain experience and I got to know many wonderful locals who welcomed me into the community as if I were a local myself.

Outside work | I’d go to the local tennis club at least two to three times a week to play fixtures and social tennis with the rest of the community. This was fantastic because it reminded me a lot of my days in Blackall as a child playing social tennis. We would frequently meet at the local pub for a meal to catch up with some of the local and visiting doctors, as well as the students from UQ who were also on rural placement.

Two men at function
Man and woman cutting cake
Left: Sachin with one of his mentors, Professor Tarun Sen Gupta, Head of JCU's Townsville Clinical School. Right: Helping beloved clinical facilitator Helen Britton to cut her farewell cake at her retirement gathering with students and clinical school staff in mid-2021.

After graduation

I’m hoping to have a career as a surgeon. While I’ll be spending 2022 in Brisbane as an intern, I would love to one day return to rural and regional Australia to use my skills and give back to the community where I grew up. Through JCU I have met many wonderful people who have given me fantastic advice on pursuing a career in surgery, and how I can use these skills in rural areas as well. You get to experience so many different placements and opportunities from the first year, it’s hard to not be inspired.

Group taking selfie of one man and four women
Three people at MIGA stall
Left: Sachin on placement with JCU GP Supervisor Dr Catriona Arnold-Nott and Malanda Medical Care staff. Right: On duty for JCUMSA.

'Put your hand up'

The best bit of advice I’ve received seems generic, but it is timeless: Just have a go. Put your hand up, whether it’s to answer a question or practise a particular skill on placement. The opportunities you get in medicine are truly endless, but you’ll never be able to take advantage of them without putting yourself out there and having a go.

Most of the highlights of my rural terms came because of my willingness to have a go. You will be sure to pick up a new skill or meet interesting groups of people if you have the right attitude about it. A student’s attitude towards their placement is often a significant determinant of the quality of the experience.

Farmland at Malanda on the Tablelands.

(Photo supplied by Sachin Joshi.)

What got me through

My Christian faith has been the cornerstone of my life, including the journey travelled over the past six years. Without it, and the love and support of my family and friends, I would never have achieved what I have nor been able to cross the finish line and enjoy it. No matter one’s personal beliefs, I would encourage every single student to find those people you can lean on for support and keep them close. Those people will not only help you in medical school but will become lifelong mentors and friends.

JCU is focused on training a fit-for-purpose regional, rural and remote health workforce to ensure a future where communities can be confident of equitable access to high-quality healthcare close to home.

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