UNE celebrates new medical students’ ‘desire to help humanity’

Published 14 February 2012

Sixty-eight first-year medical students, from all around Australia and from New Zealand, were welcomed to the University of New England’s School of Rural Medicine at an official ceremony yesterday.

The Head of the School, Professor Peter McKeown, in introducing the students, said the class of 32 men and 36 women, with an average age of nineteen-and-a-half, was “one of the youngest medical school classes in Australia”. “We’re delighted to have such a youthful cohort,” he said.

The students are embarking on a five-year Bachelor of Medicine degree program at UNE – a university, Professor McKeown said, that “strives to be an international institution in a rural setting using affiliations and high-technology links”.

He referred particularly to the partnership with the University of California, Irvine, that has helped the School of Rural Medicine become the first medical school in Australia with an undergraduate ultrasound course, and the first medical school in Australia to issue all of its first-year students with iPads.

At the end of the ceremony, Professor McKeown presented each of the new students (among them Susanna Falk, pictured here) with an iPad and a doctor’s white coat.

The ceremony was a formal affair, with the students arrayed in academic gowns. It was preceded by a colourful academic procession, and family members of the students were among the audience.

UNE’s School of Rural Medicine is part of the Joint Medical Program (JMP), which is an expansion of the highly successful University of Newcastle medical program in partnership with UNE, Hunter New England Health and Central Coast Health. Speaking to the students via video conference from the University of Newcastle, the JMP’s Dean of Medicine, Professor Ian Symonds, welcomed them to the program, telling them that “from today you are part of the medical profession”.

Professor McKeown acknowledged the support of many people, including “community physicians and the community at large”, and urged the students to value the “experience and dedication” of their teachers. “They are here to guide you through the next five years,” he said. “I trust you will not only use them as a resource but give them the respect and honour they deserve.”

“I hope that each and every one of you has entered medicine because you have a deep desire to help humanity,” Professor McKeown said. “And in addition to a kind heart I hope you bring determination and drive and a desire for hard work.”

Georgia Carroll, the President of the UNE Medical Students’ Association, welcomed the newcomers on behalf of all her fellow students. “You’ll be sharing this experience with some of the best people you’ll ever meet,” she said. “The camaraderie is one of the best things about Medicine at UNE. Challenge yourselves – and reap the rewards of friendship and achievement together.”