A new, region-first university training stream will help south-west medical students finish their degrees locally with hopes they will pursue jobs in their own patch.
Medical students from the region historically have often moved to metropolitan cities for their studies with many eventually choosing to pursue a career where they re-located.
But Deakin University's new Rural Training Stream will encourage regional students to pursue a career in the region by not only offering them local study options but also by giving them priority places in medical school.
Deakin University Warrnambool lecturer in rural general practice Dr Jessica Beattie said 19 of the 32 priority places were given to students in the south-west and Grampians region this year.
"We were looking at where our graduates were working," she said.
"We found not many were working rurally as we would like. We looked at the factors associated with the ones who were and we found they were people that were from that sort of background or people who had spent one to two years placement there.
"When we looked at those two components together (rural background and extended rural training) they were even more likely to be working rurally. We thought 'let's be more strategic about how we're training our students and put those factors together'.
"We're hoping to build aspirations and to help students think they can do this. You need to be bright enough, but you don't need to be brightest. Medicine is a pathway they can pursue."
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Warrnambool's Erin Keegan was given a priority place in Deakin University's medical school and is currently studying at the Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong.
She says she will be putting her preference in soon to complete her studies at the Warrnambool campus and hopes to get a job at Australian Skin Face Body Warrnambool.
"I want to come back to Warrnambool because of the personal connection I have and a lot of my family is there," she said.
"You go through a lot of medical care when you're at home and it's important for me to give back to the communities that give to you.
"There's a massive lack of specialised health professionals in the area so it's mostly about giving back to the region."
She said she believed access to advanced study options was previously a limiting factor for rural and regional students looking to get into medical school.
"It can seem so far out of reach for people because you're competing with others who have always had access to after school programs and all of those additional resources which in Warrnambool aren't really there," she said.
"In high school for example I was going to Melbourne to help get a better score so I could get into university."
First-year medical student Lauren Johnson, also from Warrnambool, is at the Waurn Ponds campus and plans to return for her third and fourth years of study.
"The program inspired me to first of all apply and now I want to come back and work rurally," she said.
"A lot of students from the south-west are in a similar situation. The program made it a lot easier to get into medical school and coming back to Warrnambool for clinical training will help us be contained in that area to work in the future."
She said she wanted to specialise in being a rural generalist.
"Currently I'm looking into being a rural generalist which is a bit of a new stream but I'll be trained as a GP and in emergency care," she said.
"I'll be able to cover a few gaps."
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