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Medical Student Rural Inspiration Conference


4th December 2023

RDN was pleased to host around 100 keen medical students from across NSW and the ACT for the Medical Student Rural Inspiration Conference, held last Saturday in Coogee as a part of Rural Health Pro’s Rural Health Month 2023.

The event is designed specifically for medical students with an interest in rural practice and features presentations, panels and events aimed to inspire and inform students about practicing in the bush as they expand their network heading into their early careers.

 “There’s all this positivity and it’s so nice to see the future rural workforce is in really capable hands,” said RDN Future Workforce Program Lead Eleanor Knight on the sidelines of the event. Some of these students haven’t had much experience in rural areas and so we’re showcasing to them how great it is. Some of the other students on the other hand have grown up in rural areas and it’s been something that they’ve always been passionate about. You can feel the energy in the room and the passion for rural health which is really exciting.”

Purposefully co-located with the Rural GPs Conference, students had the opportunity to network with established rural professionals and socialise at the Awards Dinner, giving them a glimpse into the potential of their future careers with the presentation of the Rural Medical Service Awards presented to rural doctors who have achieved 35+ years-service in remote, rural and regional communities in NSW at the dinner.

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Students had the opportunity to hear from a range of panellists and speakers discussing topics including:

  • Providing advice and sharing resources to build cultural awareness
  • An insight into the life of a Rural Generalist
  • Rural and regional research: be inspired
  • The training journey of a regional specialist
  • Untangling the Single Employer Model
  • Preparing for internship, and
  • Royal Flying Doctor Service simulation session and career information

Rural Cadet reflections

Amongst those in attendance were 48 of this year’s ‘Cadets’ which, for the second year in a row, represented the highest number of NSW Rural Resident Medical Officer Cadetships to be offered to medical students by RDN. Cadetships, administered by RDN on behalf of the NSW Ministry of Health, offer successful medical students up to $15,000 for their last two years of medical school in return for undertaking two of their first three years of hospital training in an eligible rural NSW hospital. RDN’s Future Workforce Manager Chris Russell says the Cadetships “provide an effective link between medical school and rural practice.”

Adam Wilson, a fourth-year medical student at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and current Indigenous Cadet, spoke of the networking opportunities at the event, that brings so many together.

“We can find out these amazing opportunities in rural health and then pass them onto our friends and coworkers in our degrees. I think the networking is the best thing about it”, he told RDN.

Adam’s journey to Coogee all started with an RDN Go Rural road trip, “I did a Go Rural trip in my second year and that really cemented for me that RDN had the ability to show me places that I would never see normally in a city campus”, he said at the conference on Saturday.

Current UNSW fourth-year medical students Nicholas Greenberg and James Harrison spoke to RDN at the event about the impact of hearing from doctors already practicing in rural areas.

“I’ve particularly enjoyed hearing from doctors talking about being rural generalists, so you know GP anaesthetics GP paediatrics”, said Nicholas. “It’s really informative as a medical student to hear from the experiences of these rural doctors who contribute so much to the community, you definitely look up to these people as a student.”

Of note for Nicholas was the emphasis on openly discussing wellbeing for young medical students and junior doctors. ‘One of the things that stood out to me, they’ve asked all the panellists to talk about self-care, which I think is a really, really critical thing in medicine because it’s a demanding career.”

Both currently studying in Wagga Wagga with the intention of practicing rurally, James and Nicholas shared their favourite parts of living in the bush.

“I just really love living in the country. I’ve loved living in Dubbo, love living in Wagga. I’m really into my sport, like my footy”, Nicholas told RDN. “I just really enjoy living in the country.”

James shared a similar sentiment and claimed the community spirit is what draws him into the country lifestyle. “The people is probably the biggest thing I’d say. You get the community sense, you go to the pub and you run into the same people you’ve seen every other weekend. I like that - when you’re living in Sydney you don’t get as much of the community feel. You don’t have to commute to places which is good. People are very generous in the country, and I think that’s something that I’ve always enjoyed.”

Looking forward in his medical career, Nicholas spoke to the impact of regional doctors in rural communities.

“As a regional or rural doctor you have a more profound impact in the community because it’s a smaller community so people have this real appreciation for what you’re doing, and that’s something that is unique to rural medicine and I really, really look forward to getting the opportunity to doing that in my future career.”

Another Cadet in attendance was recently named ‘Rising Star’ Shay-Lee Coulson, a proud Goojinburra woman of the Bundjalung nation and third-year medical student at the University of New England. After finishing her final exam for the year last Thursday, Shay-Lee travelled to Sydney with her family to attend the conferences and celebrate the news that she won the ‘Rising Star’ Award at the inaugural National Rural and Remote Health Awards held at Parliament House Canberra this month!  

4“For me, rural health is a very natural progression and when I look into the future, that’s where I am, connecting with community…. I need a community; my kids need a community and I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else,” Shay-Lee said.  

Shay-Lee said she’s grateful to have received a Cadetship and had been looking forward to making more connections at the Student Conference. 

A key feature of the event is its longevity as students work through university and into their early and developed careers. Dr Nicholas Ireland, a former RDN Cadet, this year returned to Coogee to attend the Rural GPs Conference and to speak to students after having attended the Students Conference himself in years past.                                                         

“To come full circle back to coming here as a student to the Conference and then coming back as a junior doctor and being able to chat to future junior doctors- I think the focus mainly will be on looking after yourself”, Dr Ireland told Jeremy Mitchell on Rural Health Pro’s Conference Catch-Ups podcast.

“I’ve been coming to these things for a few years and seeing the same people and the way that their trajectory is going I find really interesting, the way we all develop into our careers.

Coming to things like this and feeling wanted and respected and having someone tell you that the career that you’ve chosen and who you are as a person is valuable and desirable, it makes such a huge difference to people.”

The Medical Student Rural Inspiration Conference was brought to students by NSW Regional Training Hub Networks, National Rural Health Student Network, AMSA Rural, NSW Rural Doctors Network and the Rural Doctors' Association of NSW.

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