When pharmacist Camilla King decided to take a career detour, and train to become a general practitioner, she only applied to one medical school.
"I'm not one for all the hustle and bustle of the city," said Camilla, who grew up in south-eastern Queensland. "The University of New England appealed to me because it is located in the country and I knew the class sizes were much smaller. The intake of medical students in a lot of city universities today is staggering; some take in 600 students a year."
Camilla's cohort in the Joint Medical Program (JMP) offered by UNE's School of Rural Medicine in partnership with the University of Newcastle and the Hunter New England and Central Coast Local Health Districts, was about 80.
"That meant it was much easier to get know your fellow students and the university staff," Camilla said. "At Armidale, we also had a better opportunity to get to know some of the local practitioners, which is really important for your future skill development."
Now in her second year of GP training, Camilla is even more firm in her resolve to practice in a rural or regional area. After a year's training in Tamworth, she moved to the Armajun Aboriginal Health Service, based in Inverell, earlier this year. Under her supervisor, senior doctor and dermatology expert Julia Fomiatti, Camilla is keen to develop her understanding of skin medicine.
"It's a valuable opportunity to learn about Indigenous health as well as dermatology," Camilla said. "At Armajun, I am dealing with many chronic diseases and social issues - it's a big range of medicine.
"I grew up in the country and I've always wanted to return to practice there. My wonderful father, who lived in a rural area, passed away in my first year of medicine. The medical services that were available to him were extremely limited. This encouraged me to try to contribute to better medicine for populations living outside cities, to help give them access to quality health care. Programs like this one at UNE are wonderful for rural students to gain the necessary skills."
Despite the benefits of her pharmacological training, Camilla admits it's been a "long pathway" to medicine. "I wanted to do medicine when I left school, but I didn't," she said. "I think there's a lesson there."
After at least a year at Armajun, Camilla hopes to expand her skills even further, maybe even complete a palliative care term. "I am keen to obtain whatever skills I can to equip me for rural medicine; I want to become the kind of clinician that I would like to go to myself," she said.