UNE wins Federal funding to build Clinical School in Armidale

Published 07 April 2010

stethoscope_smallThe University of New England has received $5.5 million from the Commonwealth Government to build a Clinical School in Armidale to support the Joint Medical Program (JMP).

The Tablelands Clinical School will play an important role in supporting the Government’s strategy to build the health workforce of the future and improve the long-term sustainability of the rural health workforce.

UNE and the University of Newcastle offer the JMP in partnership with Hunter New England Area Health Service (HNEAHS) and Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service.  The Tablelands Clinical School is a milestone development for the University and the Joint Medical Program and has been the result of many years of hard work.  The funding for the Clinical School has come through the Government’s Rural Education Infrastructure Development Pool.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, welcomed the announcement and said that the funded project was a collaborative venture between UNE, the University of Newcastle, the New England Division of General Practice (NEDGP), HNEAHS, and GP Synergy.  “Within the next year or so we expect to see the Tablelands Clinical School occupying a single-storey building in the city of Armidale with two wings: one to house the Tablelands Clinical School itself, including education facilities and specialist rooms, and the other for the GP Training Practice to be developed and operated by the NEDGP, which will also provide medical services to the community,” Professor Barber said.  “This is very exciting for the University and our community.

“What is innovative about our model is that students will live, work and learn in these rural environments.  This will substantially increase the potential for a sustainable rural health workforce.”

“The new facility will promote improved linkages within the region’s healthcare services,” said Dr Maree Puxty, the Clinical Dean of the Tablelands Clinical School.  “The Clinical School will provide a focal location with multidisciplinary capacity, and professional development and networking for regional specialists and GPs as well as visiting specialists and medical, nursing and allied health students.

“Our ‘hub-and-spoke’ teaching model will allow prolonged medical, nursing and allied-health student clinical placements in rural towns.  This will complement the other existing JMP Clinical Schools in Tamworth, Taree, Newcastle and Gosford.”

Professor Michael Hensley from the University of Newcastle, the JMP’s Dean of Medicine, said that the Commonwealth’s investment in the Tablelands Clinical School was essential to enable the JMP to fulfil its mission to contribute to the medical workforce in rural and remote Australia.  “The three rural-based JMP Clinical Schools at Tamworth, Taree and Armidale will all have the facilities to educate a substantial proportion of the JMP medical students in rural settings,” Professor Hensley said. “Through its partnership with HNEAHS, NEDGP and GP Synergy, the Tablelands Clinical School has identified for itself the important niche of primary and generalist practice in the continuum of medical education.”

The NEDGP welcomed this funding from the Commonwealth. “It is exciting to see the Joint Medical Program embark on this initiative to build a clinical school in Armidale,” said Dr Paul Kennedy, Medical Director of the Division.  “Our organisation has a well-deserved reputation for providing high-quality programs throughout the New England community and supporting the existing high calibre of general practitioners and other primary health staff working and training in the area. This joint venture with the University will bring more primary care services to our town and further support the high quality of general practitioners and the range of Division programs.”

“It will be exciting to collaborate with the academics at the universities,” Dr Kennedy said, “and we look forward to jointly developing a centre of excellence in clinical teaching. We have long promoted the need for such a centre, and congratulate the UNE School of Rural Medicine and the JMP on their successful grant application.”

“A Clinical School based around a Rural Referral Hospital will involve broader partnerships than those of conventional large metropolitan clinical schools, underlining the principles of patient-centred, multidisciplinary, evidence-based medicine,” said Professor Victor Minichiello,   Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of UNE’s Faculty of The Professions. “Students will become involved with the patients in primary care and follow their in-hospital management by a GP Visiting Medical Officer or generalist specialists, allowing them to observe how well an integrated team-based model provides holistic patient care in rural environments.”