Rural medical pathway
A Victorian first
For industry and community:
- provides a solution to the rural medical workforce shortage
- reforms the way country-raised medical students are trained
- creates better long-term health outcomes for regional, rural and remote communities
- part of the Federal Government's Stronger Rural Health Strategy.
- complete a three-year undergraduate Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) course at La Trobe’s Bendigo or Albury-Wodonga campus
- gain guaranteed entry into the University of Melbourne’s Doctor of Medicine postgraduate program in Shepparton. *
- pathway co-designed by La Trobe and the University of Melbourne.
About the pathway
The Rural Medical Pathway is part of the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network (MDMS Network) and is a component of the Federal Government’s $550 million 2018-19 Budget investment in the Stronger Rural Health Strategy.
A Victorian first, the end-to-end regional medical program involves:
- a 3-year Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) at La Trobe University’s Bendigo or Albury Wodonga Campus; and
- a 4-year Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) at the University of Melbourne in Shepparton*.
This innovative program commenced in 2018 and involves two universities – La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne – and three regional centres in Victoria. Both universities have a long and respected reputation in research and teaching of biomedical science, health and rural education.
*subject to a weighted average mark (WAM) of 75 in the Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical).
The pathway creates opportunities for students with rural backgrounds who are interested in practicing medicine in rural and regional areas. It flips the current city-centric medical training model by delivering most of the training in the regions, with rotation to metropolitan areas for specialist immersions kept to a minimum.
The pathway is structured to expose students to learning environments that highlight key aspects of interprofessional practice. Students gain an understanding of the broader allied health professions which is critical for working effectively as part of the regional health workforce. For example, study is done alongside pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing and other allied health students. The medical pathway program sits alongside a high quality, well-developed allied health training package as part of our extensive rural health school and newest University Department of Rural Health (UDRH).
The selection process targets applicants with rural backgrounds who are seeking a career in the rural health workforce. The first cohort of 15 students from central and northern Victoria, Mildura and southern New South Wales enrolled in 2019. All students are performing above the required standard to guarantee entry into the Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) from 2022.
In May 2018, the Federal Government announced the creation of the end-to-end rural medical program, investing $74 million in the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network – of which $7 million was allocated to La Trobe to support the new medical pathway.
Capital and human investment
The funding has been directed across several capital investments and key staff appointments to support the program, including:
- Albury-Wodonga Campus: $2 million capital works including two science laboratories, a preparation room and equipment (completed September 2019)
- Bendigo Campus: $600,000 refurbishment of anatomy labs (completed March 2019)
- new academic and professional staff roles.
High demand for course placements
- Following strong national interest and approximately 200 applications, 15 regional and rural students were selected for 2019 course entry. View location map of current student hometowns [PDF 116KB].
- Current applications for 2020 course intake demonstrate a high concentration of applicants from central and northern Victoria, Mildura and southern New South Wales.
- Interest in the Pathway is far-reaching, with applicants from every Australian State and Territory applying for 2020 entry.
Collaboration and engagement
The Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) course enables strong collaboration with the University of Melbourne and regional health professionals. The students are welcomed at the University of Melbourne's Orientation Week and receive guest lectures and seminars from current medical students and graduates.
The Rural Medical Pathway initiative promotes research collaborations between the University of Melbourne, Western Sydney University, Charles Sturt University and other institutions within the MDMS Network.
Work has started on a study on “what is rurality?” to investigate how universities approach and assess medical school applicants on their rurality, with the hope of establishing best practice for selecting regional applicants who are most likely to pursue a career in the regional medical workforce.
The program would not operate without community support, particularly from:
- prospective and current students and their families
- local community
- rural and regional based medical professionals
- regional Health organisations including Bendigo Health, Albury Wodonga Health, Echuca Regional Health, Goulburn Valley Health, Wangaratta Heath, and Nathalia Cobram and Numurkah Health Services.
- Local, State and Federal governments.
Support from local industry
Nick Bush, CEO, Echuca Health
'Our collaboration in the student selection is very important, as most of all the previous students come from Melbourne and have little interest in working rurally.'
I want to make a difference to the doctor shortage across rural and remote Australia, enabling all Australians access to the healthcare and resources that they deserve. The variability within the job from day to day and the opportunity to work in close-knit communities are both reasons that rural practise appeals to me; I would love to know all my patients and colleagues well. I ultimately aim to become a rural generalist and practice in remote areas of Australia or to work with the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service.
I'm enjoying the atmosphere of the course and enjoying learning about the human body and working in the health sector.
I'm surrounded by a positive community of students within the same degree and other disciples of health who share the same passion for health, and it excites me that some of these people might be my colleagues in the future.