New solution to rural doctor shortage

La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne have welcomed the Federal Government’s creation of a new, end-to-end rural medical program in Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton designed to solve Victoria’s rural doctor shortage.

The initiative was announced in the 2018-19 Budget and is being delivered through a unique collaboration between two of Victoria’s oldest  universities, which have a long and respected track record in medical, health and rural education.

La Trobe University Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the announcement realises the University’s longstanding commitment to deliver more locally-trained doctors for rural, regional and remote communities.

“This is welcome news for people living in regional Victoria who finally have a solution to this decades-old challenge. It’s also a tribute to the commitment and vision of the Federal National Party who have consistently championed the need for a new approach,” Professor Dewar said.

“We are proud to be partnering with the University of Melbourne, a world-class provider of medical education. I am confident that this approach – combined with our own extensive experience in allied health and regional education – will train more doctors for the bush, ultimately creating better long-term health outcomes for regional, rural and remote communities in Victoria,” Professor Dewar said.

He also paid tribute to the vision and foresight of the University of Melbourne in agreeing to reallocate places from their city campus to Shepparton.

“This is not only the right thing to do, it also confirms the University of Melbourne’s character as an institution that, like La Trobe, cares deeply about its communities,” Professor Dewar said.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis welcomed the Federal Government announcement.

"This partnership with La Trobe University will allow even more rural and regional students to train as doctors, which will improve health service provision and outcomes for people living in those areas," Professor Davis said.

Today’s Budget also announced that La Trobe University will become a University Department of Rural Health, which will enable the La Trobe School of Rural Health to strengthen educational and experiential opportunities in allied health and nursing, and further encourage recruitment and retention of rural and remote health professionals.

“We know that people from a regional city or town, who learn in regional Victoria have the best possible chance of graduating and working in regional Victoria. That’s our central premise,” Professor Dewar said.

The approach:

From 2019 a cohort of La Trobe students, co-selected collaboratively by both universities, will enter La Trobe’s new three-year Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) undergraduate degree delivered at La Trobe University’s Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga campuses. Those who successfully complete the course will then gain guaranteed entry into the University of Melbourne’s new Doctor of Medicine (Rural) postgraduate degree, based in Shepparton.

The selection process will target students with rural backgrounds who are seeking a career in the rural health workforce.

Pro Vice-Chancellor for La Trobe’s College of Science, Health and Engineering, Professor Rob Pike, said the new La Trobe Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) degree will use a specially-created curriculum, not only giving students foundation discipline skills, but also providing them with the background and context required for a career in a rural or regional setting.

“This joint initiative builds on each university’s complementary strengths,” Professor Pike said. “It also means students from a wide range of health disciplines from both universities will work together more closely in regional Victoria to strengthen inter-professional education.”

The universities will work collaboratively with the Government and communities over the coming months to finalise governance and implementation details.

Find out more

Media contact:
La Trobe University, Tim Mitchell – 0437457780/ t.mitchell@latrobe.edu.au

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