Gift of education a boost for the bush

Published 28 April 2008

lawsminichiello.jpgWith the help of a Hyman Scholarship for Rural Medicine at the University of New England, ten young Australians are working towards their dream of becoming a country doctor.

They are members of a group of 61 students who are the first to enter the Bachelor of Medicine degree program in UNE’s new School of Rural Medicine.

The scholarships – like the School of Rural Medicine itself – recognise the importance of preparing medical students for work in regional as well as metropolitan centres.

The scholarship holders are all looking forward to at least two years’ employment in rural, regional or remote areas of NSW after graduating five years from now. Their training will prepare them for this, providing them – over the five years – with a wealth of clinical experience throughout the New England region and beyond.

“UNE’s School of Rural Medicine recognises the important contribution of the community to its development,” said the Head of the School, Dr John Fraser. “Students who study in rural areas are 2.5 times more likely to remain in country locations during their careers. The Hyman Scholarship for Rural Medicine recognises and supports these students, who often face considerable barriers – including financial concerns and relocation from family.”

Professor Victor Minichiello, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions, said: “The scholarship shows the importance that rural communities place on ensuring that we have high-quality doctors and other health professionals working in rural Australia, and the support they are willing to provide to the University in achieving that objective.”

The ten holders of the inaugural Hyman Scholarships come from urban and regional areas of NSW, Queensland, and South Australia. They were awarded the scholarships on the basis of their performance in last year’s NSW Higher School Certificate examinations (or their equivalent in other States), their involvement in leadership and community activities, and their commitment to rural medicine. Throughout their degree program they will report on their experiences in regional clinical placements.

Each scholarship is worth $10,000 a year for the five years of the program. The recipients live in one or other of UNE’s residential colleges for at least the first year of their course, enabling them to take full advantage of the special tutorials and other aspects of academic support offered on the campus and in its colleges.

One of the scholarship recipients, Patrick Laws, comes from a rural property not far from Toowoomba in Queensland. “The scholarship has come as a relief for my parents as well as for me,” Patrick said, “as it goes towards paying off HECS and residential college fees.”

Patrick applied for a place in the UNE Bachelor of Medicine program because of a specific interest in country medical practice. “Ultimately, I’d like to live and work in a regional centre and travel regularly to more remote areas,” he said.

Enthusiastic about the course as a whole, he said he particularly enjoyed working in a group of students towards the solution of a real-life medical problem, and the availability of practical experience and expert guidance in the study of anatomy.

The degree is offered through the Joint Medical Program, which is an expansion of the highly successful University of Newcastle medical program in partnership with the University of New England, Hunter New England Health and Northern Sydney Central Coast Health.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Patrick Laws and Professor Minichiello. It expands to include the other nine Hyman Scholarship holders and Professor Pettigrew. From left: Riarne Smith, Samira Bhuiyan, Emily Lewis, Etienne Musumeci, Professor Alan Pettigrew, Jodie Parker, Patrick Laws, Professor Victor Minichiello, Eric Donaldson, Roger Luo, Bernadette Nolan and Rebecca Hogbin.