This week, aspiring doctors from rural Victoria commenced their Deakin University medical studies in Ararat and Warrnambool.
This is the first time students entering Deakin’s Doctor of Medicine (MD) program have started the first year of their degrees in South-West and Western Victoria.
Deakin’s Dean of Medicine, Professor Gary Rogers said the opportunity to deliver a full rural medical degree was genuinely exciting for the University but also for the 30 students who will now be able to complete their studies closer to their homes and families.
“Previously, our medical students all completed the first and second year of their degrees at our Waurn Ponds campus in Geelong and then dispersed across regional Victoria and Melbourne to complete their third and fourth placement years,” Professor Rogers said.
“This year, we have 30 students in our Rural Training Stream studying at Deakin’s new rural learning campuses for the MD, 15 students in Warrnambool and 15 students at East Grampians Health Service in Ararat.
“This is an important step in our commitment to recruiting and retaining rural students to work as doctors in their communities.
“It’s really important that students from our region remain living in and connected to their communities whilst completing their medical studies.
“Being forced to move away to attend university is not only a financial burden it is also disruptive for them and their families and makes it less likely they will return as a future doctor,” Professor Rogers said.
In December, Deakin welcomed significant funding from the Federal Government to deliver the Warrnambool and Ararat based MD program.
The Government committed $90 million to six universities in six states, including Deakin in Victoria, to fund classrooms, equipment and facilities as well as new Commonwealth Supported Places for medical students.
Deakin’s Director of Rural Medical Education, Associate Professor Lara Fuller said it was hoped the Rural Training Stream would open the door for a whole new generation of rural students to consider becoming rural doctors.
“This year, as a result of the changes we have made, for the first time, we have 30 students from rural communities in our region commencing in our Rural Training Stream,” Associate Professor Fuller said.
“This really is a game-changer for rural students who have always wanted to study medicine. We hope this helps them make their dreams a reality.”
East Grampians Health Service Chief Executive Nick Bush said it was a great day for the Wimmera to have the first rural cohort of Deakin University medical students start at Ararat.
Mr Bush said he was extremely grateful to Professor Gary Rogers Dean of the School of Medicine at Deakin University who had a vision to train local people in their local community to be doctors.
“Professor Rogers had to seek agreement from the University to alter the entrance requirements to ensure people from the Wimmera could be recruited,” Mr Bush said.
“These changes included removing the requirement to have studied in the previous 10 years and sit and pass the Graduate Medical Schools Admissions Test.”
Mr Bush said students who had enrolled in the course highlighted to him that this course was different.
“A paramedic, nurse and school teacher from Horsham will study medicine at Ararat, joining Avneet Chand a radiographer from East Grampians Health Service in Ararat,” he said.
Mr Bush thanked the East Grampians Health Service Visiting Medical Officers from Ararat Medical Centre, particularly Doctors Pieter Pretorius, Michael Connellan, CS Wong and Prasad Fonseka who have had a long-term commitment to teaching Deakin University students at Ararat.
“This I am sure made the Deakin University decision to offer the course at Ararat an easy one,” he said.
Mr Bush said he appreciated the work of the EGHS building team, who constructed a practical laboratory over the Christmas New Year period to ensure the students had a top-class learning environment from day one.
“I wish all students well with their studies and look forward to building on the rural training program in Ararat,” Mr Bush said.