THREE south-west university students will soon become the first local graduates to complete their medical studies at the Warrnambool Base Hospital.
The first class of medical students passed through the doors from the Deakin University medical campus in Warrnambool last year but only this month will the first south-west student graduate from the course.
Students enrolled in the post-graduate medical degree undergo their first two years on campus at Waurn Ponds in Geelong but can spend the remaining two years inside a hospital training across almost every department.
Two years ago a joint initiative between Deakin University and South West Healthcare saw Warrnambool Base Hospital included as one of several important training grounds for young doctors.
With just days before he finishes his final year Chris Kearney described the hospital as an ideal place to learn.
“You keep learning on the job ... when you put a person’s face to a disease you remember it more than just reading it from a book,” Mr Kearney explained yesterday.
Clinical academics and supporters hope the degree will address the ongoing shortage of doctors and general medical practitioners in rural and regional Australia by giving students a taste of living in a regional city. Mr Kearney, who completed secondary school at Monivae College in Hamilton, will take up his first job next year as an intern doctor at The Western hospital in Melbourne.
But after that he hopes to return to the country as a general medical practitioner.
“The main drawcards are the patient contact because you get some continuity of care with the patients, seeing them more often and seeing how they are going rather than just once and that’s it,” Mr Kearney said.
Fellow students Carina Webster and Nicole Turner still have one more year at Warrnambool Base Hospital, where they are studying everything from emergency medicine to palliative care.
Ms Webster, originally from Willatook, said she was yet to decide on what area she hoped to specialise in.
“You get such a snippet in each of the rotation but I do like the idea of paediatrics,” Ms Webster said.
“I am yet to do my general practice rotation, which is in fourth year.
“I’m just trying to prepare myself to be a good intern.”
Ms Turner, also in her third year of study, said she enjoyed the work-life balance of living in a country town.
“I’ve moved around a bit in cities and in towns and I really enjoy the feel of smaller town with familiar faces down the street,” Ms Turner said yesterday.