Nationals support rural medical school

Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University have welcomed the support of the Federal National Party for the proposed Murray-Darling Medical School (MDMS).

La Trobe and Charles SturtThe Nationals’ policy platform ‘Our Plan for Regional Australia’ supports the establishment of the MDMS.

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last week also indicated the Coalition's support for increased intern training places in rural and regional areas. 

The MDMS is a joint initiative of both Universities. It is a medical school with a new model of medical education focused on addressing rural medical workforce shortages. Under the model people from rural and regional areas are trained outside the capital cities for careers in regional towns and communities. 

Charles Sturt Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said he looked forward to continuing discussions and being a part of the solution to the continuing shortage of doctors in rural and regional areas, which was a long-held aim of the Nationals. 

‘We are pleased to see the National Party commit to establishing the Murray Darling Medical School in government and their recognition that regional universities and campuses are best placed to address workforce shortages in their local communities,’ Professor Vann said.

‘One of the little known successes of Australia's regional universities has been their contribution to expanding the number of rural students enrolling in health science degrees, and the number of their graduates that remain in rural areas to practice.

‘Regional universities like Charles Sturt University, and La Trobe University's Bendigo campus are achieving rural enrolment rates well above 70 percent. More than 75 percent of these rural health graduates are retained in rural employment after graduation.  

‘Regional universities are creating an effective workforce pipeline enabling rural people to train in rural areas and then continue to live and work in regional communities,’ he said.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar commended the announcement.

‘Rural doctor shortages are well known. The current model of medical education sees students studying predominantly in capital cities and in large metropolitan hospitals. This clearly does not address the ongoing shortage of rural doctors,’ Professor Dewar said.

‘The MDMS is crucial in ensuring a secure source of medical graduates for rural communities who have had to rely on recruiting doctors from overseas for far too long. 

‘This medical school allows rural inland Australian communities to ‘grow their own’ doctors.  We will recruit students from the regions, train them in the regions for a rural medical career,’ he said. 

The National Party policy says:

‘In government we will support this initiative, aimed at providing 120 places per year initially, increasing to 180 places in following years, as well as providing teaching infrastructure in hospitals, general practices and community health clinics across the region.'

‘With students recruited, trained and then working in the regions as doctors, the capacity of the regions to respond to unique health concerns will be well served.’

The Murray Darling Medical School in summary

The proposed Murray Darling Medical School will have: 

  • A high rural intake (at least 80 %) to maximise the likelihood of graduates choosing rural practice
  • An undergraduate program to help recruit rural high school students before they have left the regions
  • A medical degree delivered in rural areas so that students do not have to relocate to a metropolitan area
  • Training provided across multiple campuses and communities within the rural region
  • Training for medical students together with dental, pharmacy, nursing and allied health students so health and medical graduates are equipped for rural, team based care
  • A rural specific curriculum with emphasis on generalism including procedural training and skills required by rural and remote medical practitioners.

Interview opportunities

Professor John Dewar – Vice Chancellor of La Trobe University.

Please call Tim Mitchell on 0437 457 780 to arrange an interview. 

Professor Andrew Vann – Vice Chancellor of Charles Sturt University.

Please call Wesley Ward on 0415 125 795 to arrange an interview.