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Written By

Hannah Gray


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

12 June 2024

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An unexpected adventure

When Molly Donkin decided to move from Sydney to Townsville to study medicine, she had no idea what the next chapter would hold. Now in her fourth year of JCU’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Molly shares how she’s adopted a marathon mindset that yields winning results.

Upon finishing high school, Molly’s plan was to take a gap year to travel before going to uni. But when the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans, she turned to study for her next adventure.

Becoming a doctor was Molly’s lifelong goal and seeing an ad on social media for JCU Medicine marked the beginning of achieving that dream.

“When I looked into studying medicine here, the things that stood out to me were lots of placement hours, rural experience, and Indigenous and tropical health,” Molly says. “Being from Sydney, we didn’t really have that diversity of practise, at least where I lived. So, the main selling point was that I would graduate with the same degree as someone in Sydney, but with a vast range of experience.”

Despite her journey to JCU beginning as an unexpected change of plans, Molly says she couldn’t be happier with how things turned out. “I originally came to Townsville thinking I’d go back to Sydney after I graduate. I looked at it as almost being ‘abroad’ and getting this great experience before moving back home. But very quickly, I was like ‘oh, wait, this is pretty good. I don’t think I want to go back!’”

Molly and a fellow student stand outside the sign for Ayr Hospital.
Molly wears medical scrubs, cap and stethoscope in a hospital.
Molly has done many medical placements, including in Ayr. [Supplied by Molly Donkin.]

Joining a welcoming community

Although moving to a city she’d never even visited before was daunting, Molly quickly found that community was one of the best things JCU had to offer.

“I felt like I’d found my home away from home quite early into my degree because the people here are so amazing,” Molly says. “We live together, we get coffee together, and I even play touch football with some of the local interns. It’s just very communal and that’s what’s so special about studying here.”

That friendliness extended into the hospital setting, where Molly benefited from the welcoming environment. “Everyone is so laidback and willing to take time to teach you, which I don’t think you get in a big city hospital because you’re rushing around so much. But here, they’re happy to run an hour session to teach us how to put a cannula in, or whatever we need to know.

“I’ve done placements in Sydney and other places in New South Wales, but being up here in a more rural environment was the first time I really felt like a part of a team,” Molly says. “You’re not just another med student – you’re taking notes, you’re practising, you’re seeing patients. Even outside of work hours, you get invited to the pub and to other doctors’ houses to socialise. And I don’t think you get that anywhere else.”

Molly Donkin runs on the Cairns esplanade.
Molly and her friends pose after doing a Cairns park run.
The Cairns Esplanade is the perfect place to train for a marathon and participate in local park runs. [Supplied by Molly Donkin.]

Winning with a marathon mindset

Molly took another leap into the unknown by moving to Cairns for the final years of her degree. Her enjoyment of community even led her to join a team of friends and register for the upcoming Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns marathon, known as the race in paradise.

“There’s a lot of hype around the IRONMAN, and there are quite a few other medicine students who do it,” Molly says. “I’ve always been a runner, and it just seems so fun. And apparently the Cairns race is beautiful, so I thought I’d give it a go.”

Molly says that moving for study, taking on a six-year degree, and even training for a 21.1 km run have proven the importance of having a marathon mindset, and shares two thoughts that have helped her approach new challenges.

“I always ask myself, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’. On my first day at JCU, I thought, ‘even if I don’t make a friend today, I’ll just try again tomorrow’. Or when I started touch footy with the local med interns, I was so nervous because I was just a student. But what was the worst that could happen? If someone was mean to me, I could still handle that.

“Often with the things we worry about, the worst that could happen isn’t really that bad. So why not take a glass half full approach? Maybe the best thing could happen, like making a team full of new friends or meeting your best friend on the first day of uni, like I did. You just have to shut off those negative thoughts and give it a chance.”

The second thing that’s helped Molly is breaking down large goals into manageable pieces. She contributes that advice to her mum, who told her at the beginning of uni: just take it one day at a time.

“The hardest part of every new experience is saying ‘yes’ and committing to do it,” Molly says. “Once you do that, you can break everything else down and achieve it one step at a time. So, I always aim to say ‘yes’ to everything because what’s the worst that could happen?”

The IRONMAN Cairns will be the culmination of the many ways Molly has aimed to adopt a winner’s mindset.

“As soon as I said ‘yes’ to the race, I got a planner and scheduled out three runs a week until the event. So, for anyone looking to do the IRONMAN, I’d definitely suggest planning out the training because it makes it feel a lot easier. If you take it one day and one step at a time, you’ll make it.”

She’s also turned to her community for support. “I’ve got lots of friends who love running, swimming and cycling, and training with people is much more enjoyable. And on those days when you really don’t feel like doing it, it’s harder to back out if you’ve already made plans to do it with someone else.”

"The hardest part of every new experience is saying 'yes'... once you do that, you can break everything else down and achieve it one step at a time."

JCU Medicine Student Molly Donkin

To cheer on Molly and other members of the JCU community, you can attend the event on the Cairns Esplanade on 16 June, follow the racers via the IRONMAN Cairns app and even join the live broadcast, with all info on the IRONMAN Cairns site.

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