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Written By

Andrew Cramb


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

20 October 2023

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Going to Darwin on a NQRTH Scholarship

Sixth-year Medicine students Jack Howard and Kaylee Pell set off to Darwin to attend the Australian Medical Student Association (AMSA) Rural Health Summit and are sharing some of the highlights of the conference.

“I had never been to the Northern Territory before,” Kaylee says. “I thought it would be a really cool place to check out. The Rural Health Summit opened up my mind about the opportunities out there, and it's got me considering a place like Darwin for my internship.”

“I had been to Darwin once before and really liked it,” Jack says, “and so much so that I am thinking of doing a year or two in the Northern Territory sometime down the track after I graduate.”

The AMSA was Kaylee’s first conference as a Med student. “The time and the cost can be a bit prohibitive,” she says. “I think sixth year is a good time to get involved in conferences. It’s busy with placements, but we don’t have the stress of exams.”

Facilitating their attendance at the Rural Health Summit was sponsored by Northern Queensland Regional Training Hubs (NQRTH), an Australian Government initiative facilitated by JCU’s College of Medicine and Dentistry.  “I wouldn’t have been able to go to the Summit without NQRTH’s sponsorship,” Jack says.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been able to attend without the support either,” Kaylee adds. “That’s the trade-off of being rural; everything is so far away! Darwin is not an easy place to get to for us, so the sponsorship made it possible for sure.”

Sixth-year Medicine students Jack Howard, based in Cairns, and Kaylee Pell, based in Townsville (supplied)

Networking opportunities

For both Jack and Kaylee, a drawcard for attending the conference was the networking opportunities with fellow Med students and clinicians across the training continuum.

"It was great to to hear from experienced clinicians across a range of specialties,” Jack says. "It was also great from a social perspective. You’re meeting people who you’re potentially going to be working alongside as doctors in the future. It’s good to be building those connections and staying in contact with students from a range of backgrounds and different universities.”

New clinical skills add to pre-internship preparation

As Jack and Kaylee prepare to graduate and head off for internships, the Summit provided an opportunity to learn new skills and hone existing ones. “The best workshop was the one that covered how ultrasound works. We went through fast scans and echocardiograms and had the opportunity to practice with each other,” Jack says. He adds that the most beneficial sessions for him were the ones that discussed healthcare in the Northern Territory, where clinicians shared their experiences with the training pathways they had taken.

“From a clinical side of things, I enjoyed the helicopter and car crash simulations,” Kaylee says. “CareFlight took us through a simulation of extricating someone from a vehicle. They gave us some exposure to the many considerations in those situations—like how tightly packed in you are in the helicopter!”

Plans for 2024

With graduation just two months away, Jack and Kaylee both have a good idea of where 2024 will take them, but both are keeping their options open beyond their internship year. The Rural Health Summit helped reinforce both the heightened need for healthcare in underserved rural communities, but also the many training, career and lifestyle opportunities in these areas.

“I’m quite interested in rural health, and I’m definitely looking at the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) or Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) pathways into rural generalism,” Jack says. “It’s great to get more exposure to that area and ask a few more questions of the GP College reps at the Summit.”

Staying home in North Queensland

Jack is a Far North Queenslander, born and raised on the Atherton Tablelands. He says he is keen to spread his wings and work out where his passions in medicine lie. But he knows there’s a good chance his path will take him back to North Queensland.

“I might be heading down south for internship, but I can definitely see myself coming back up to the North. I love the weather and the lifestyle,” Jack says. “It’s great that you can do at least some of your training in North Queensland across many different specialties.”

Kaylee adds that she always had an interest in rural and remote health. “It is a part of the reason why I did a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at JCU before getting into medicine,” she says.

“When I went back to do Medicine, I knew JCU was the place to do it, because of that focus on rural and remote health. Being a former physio, I’ve always been interested in orthopaedics. Now as I go through Medicine, I’ve realised that work-life balance is very important to me. A pathway like rural generalist or GP is becoming more and more attractive to me.”

AMSA Rural Health Summit 2023 guests.
AMSA Summit 2023 guests.
Jack Howard and Kaylee Pell (supplied)

Hosting the AMSA social night

While the Rural Health Summit provided plenty of learning, Jack and Kaylee say the social side of the three-day Summit was equally memorable. As part of their NQRTH sponsorship, Jack and Kaylee were tasked with hosting the social night.

They hosted a tropical-themed party that provided attendees with JCU-themed merch and an insight into how NQRTH can help medical graduates map their specialty training pathway in northern Queensland.

"We got a lot of questions about our placement experiences and where we are planning to go for internship. It was great to see earlier-year students from all over the country asking questions and growing in their passion for rural medicine," Kaylee says.

“There’s a lot of really good training programs in North Queensland,” Jack adds. “Chatting to some of the students at the Summit who had come from bigger cities, they were kind of surprised at the training facilities and opportunities up here.

“It was great to be able to share some of the unique cases and range of exposure I’ve been able to get being based at Cairns Hospital.”

Exploring Darwin and surrounds

Kaylee and Jack also found time to enjoy Darwin and some of the surroundings, with a day trip exploring the region. "Outside of the clinical stuff, Litchfield National Park was my highlight. It was so beautiful," Kaylee says.

"For me, the non-clinical highlight was the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. We went down there on Sunday afternoon to grab some food and watch the sunset. It was beautiful," Jack says.

Final takeaways from the Rural Health Summit

Kaylee says that she attended the Summit as she wants to get as much exposure to as many areas of medicine as she can. “As a medical student, you do have your core rotations. But in reality, you might only be getting six weeks of exposure to an entire specialty. So, it can be quite difficult to understand what it’s about.

“Going to a Summit like this gives you a bit more of an idea about a specialty. You have the opportunity to chat with people who have been in that field or might even be at the top of their field,” Kaylee says. “They can answer a lot of questions and help guide you in deciding what you want out of your career.”

Jack adds that, “overall, I'd say to fellow students to put AMSA’s Rural Health Summit on your radar. It’s really good for both an educational and social experience.”

“And it is good for CPD (Continuing Professional Development) points,” Kaylee concludes.

Find out more about the Australian Medical Student Association and the support and resources they provide to medical students across the country.

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