UNSW Sydney has welcomed the federal government’s announcement it will support the expansion of UNSW Medicine’s Rural Clinical School to deliver a complete undergraduate rural medical program based at the University’s Wagga Wagga campus.
The expansion will be part of the $95.4 million allocated in the 2018 federal budget to help universities establish medical teaching in the Murray-Darling region over the next 10 years.
“The announcement recognises UNSW’s ongoing commitment to the medical training needs in rural and regional Australia and the importance of producing highly skilled doctors who are keen to stay in rural towns once they graduate,” says UNSW Medicine’s Professor Anthony Kelleher.
The proposed expansion of the Wagga Wagga campus will deliver an end-to-end program from years 1 to 6 in a new state-of-the-art purpose-built facility, with opportunities for specialised postgraduate training working closely with the Murrumbidgee Local Health District. The program will play a critical role in supplying the region’s future doctors and specialists.
“This is an exciting extension to our successful program at Wagga Wagga that’s been running for 17 years,” said Associate Professor John Preddy, Director of Paediatrics at Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital and Head of UNSW Medicine’s Wagga Wagga campus. “This proposal will provide a total workforce solution for the Riverina region. It will help prioritise an intake of rural students and a strong partnership with regional health districts.”
UNSW Medicine’s Rural Clinical School was established 17 years ago in association with the Department of Health to address medical doctor workforce shortages in rural and remote areas, with campuses located across NSW in Albury, Coffs Harbour, Griffith, Port Macquarie, Sydney and Wagga Wagga.
“UNSW Medicine has one of the largest and most geographically distributed training models, with a proud tradition of graduating doctors who go on to further training, positions and practices in rural, regional and remote parts of Australia,” said Professor Kelleher.
The existing six-year medical program at Port Macquarie campus is an example of the critical role the University plays in meeting the medical training needs of regional areas.
A graduate of Wagga Wagga’s Rural Clinical School, Dr Barbara Cameron, was motivated to stay working in southern NSW when she saw the variety of opportunities rural practice provides.
“I grew up in Bourke where my father was in general practice and I always knew I wanted to continue to work in rural towns,” said Dr Cameron.
Completing her medical degree in Wagga Wagga in 2011, Dr Cameron finished her junior doctor placement in Gundagai, where she continues to work as a GP.
“Rural work allows for a breadth of practice that links me to the community and means I can provide continuity of care to my patients, particularly through pregnancy, childbirth and beyond,” she said. “I work in general practice during the day and I’m on call at Gundagai District Hospital once a week which gives me the opportunity to work across a huge range of disciplines.”
UNSW’s Rural Clinical Schools are also a key entry point for Indigenous students, with many graduates going on to work in remote parts of the state. There are currently 46 indigenous students studying undergraduate medicine at UNSW, and about 300 indigenous doctors in training across the country.
UNSW Medicine’s Rural Clinical School is responsible for teaching about 230 (19%) of UNSW’s total medical Commonwealth Supported Places.