Three Mildura students in new Murray Darling rural medicine program

Three young Sunraysia students will take part in a new medical program designed to help solve Australia’s doctor shortage.

Following strong national interest and a rigorous recruitment process, 15 regional and rural students have been selected to commence a unique end-to-end rural medical program designed to help solve Australia’s rural doctor shortage.  Maddie Beckwith, Kunind Oberoi and Abigail Rowe will be among the 15 students to embark on a seven year journey to become doctors as part of the Murray-Darling Rural Medical program.

This innovative new program involves two universities – La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne - and three regional centres in Victoria.

Students who successfully complete a three-year undergraduate Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) course at La Trobe’s Bendigo or Albury-Wodonga campus will gain guaranteed entry into the University of Melbourne’s Doctor of Medicine postgraduate program in Shepparton.

The program is the first in a series of programs funded by the Federal Government under the banner of the Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network (MDMSN) and has been created to address chronic shortages of doctors in regional and rural areas by training students from the regions, in the regions.

The selection process targeted students with rural backgrounds who demonstrated a commitment to seeking a career in the rural health workforce. Those students who received an offer are from areas including Mildura, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, Kyneton, Cohuna and Griffith (NSW).

Rural students often have experienced the doctor shortage first hand.  That was the case for both Ms Beckwith and Mr Oberoi.

“I was born with a plethora of medical conditions and I’ve had to travel to Adelaide a lot, sometimes Melbourne for specialist care,” Mr Oberoi said.

“That’s one of my motivating factors, which has definitely influenced me to decide to do medicine.”

For Ms Beckwith, who is hoping to practice in remote Australia or work with the Royal Flying Doctor Services at the end of her studies, the lack of specialist doctors has proved detrimental to rural communities.

“I have definitely been impacted by it – my grandfather got diagnosed with cancer not too long ago, that’s what got me into it,” she said.

“He has to travel to Melbourne, Adelaide to get chemo…the shortage of doctors is quite bad and I want to help that.”

Abigail Rowe will head to Bendigo to commence the course and said when her and her parents first heard about the course, they couldn’t believe how perfect it was for her.

“It was pretty much catered for me when I was reading about it, I’ve always wanted to do medicine since year 9.  The goal was to always come back to Mildura.  When I did work experience in year 10 I loved the rural setting at our Mildura Base Hospital in the emergency department  and how you get to directly help the members of your community.  Now it’s just so great, I don’t have to wait to do a city course and city placements, I’ll be studying in rural areas the whole time,” Abigail says.

La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar congratulated the first cohort of students to be offered a place in the new degree program, saying they have the ability to make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of those living in rural, regional and remote communities.

Both Ms Beckwith and Mr Oberoi also believed that completing La Trobe’s VCE Plus program in Human Biosciences at La Trobe Mildura while in year 12 played in their favour.

“Congratulations on being selected by La Trobe and the University of Melbourne into what is a unique initiative to tackling the age-old challenge of training and retaining more doctors in the bush,” Professor Dewar said.

“You have all demonstrated a deep understanding of and commitment to pursuing a career in rural medicine and I wish you all the very best as you progress through your studies and eventual careers.

“I’d also like to thank Federal Government, who have enabled this to happen, after persistently championing the need for a new approach to rural health.”

You can read more about the new rural medical students, including information on the recruitment process and quotes from Professor John Prins, Head of the University of Melbourne Medical School and Senator Bridget McKenzie, Minister for Regional Services and Decentralisation.

Media contact: La Trobe University, Ash Ryan - 0417 323 470 / a.ryan2@latrobe.edu.au

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