First-ever students offered spots in Rocky's first medical pathway

07 February 2022

Twenty future Central Queensland doctors have been offered a place in the foundation year of a revolutionary' Australian-first regional medical pathway to be delivered in Bundaberg and Rockhampton from this year onwards.

The foundation year of CQUniversity's Bachelor of Medical Science (Pathway to Medicine) attracted almost 1000 applications from school leavers across Australia' including more than 170 applications from people from rural and regional and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.

The three-year course will commence in March 2022' with graduates from the course then moving into The University of Queensland's four-year MD program which will also be delivered in the regions.

As part of the Regional Medical Pathway the Hospital and Health Services in Central Queensland and the Wide Bay will provide student placements' internship opportunities' and prevocational and vocational training places within their regional footprints. This will include placements at major hospitals in Rockhampton' Gladstone and Emerald (CQHHS) and Bundaberg' Hervey Bay and Maryborough (WBHHS)' as well as rural hospitals and multipurpose health services. Importantly' they will also be immersed in the community' particularly the many primary care settings such as general practices.

CQUniversity's Dean of the School of Health' Medical and Applied Science' Professor Michelle Bellingan said the volume of applications for the first year of the program was a very positive development for the future of health delivery in the regions and that she was looking forward to welcoming the foundation year of the cohort to CQUniversity in Term 1.

"We are thrilled with the response we have had to this new course and the interest received from school leavers across Australia.

"This is the strongest interest we have ever had for the launch of any new course at CQUniversity' and we are excited to see that so many of these applications came from prospective students from regional and remote backgrounds.

"We have also received an encouraging number of applications from aspiring First Nations doctors'" said Professor Bellingan.

"We are excited to welcome all of our new students who will be starting with us in the weeks ahead' and we are looking forward to continuing our work with our partners UQ' CQHHS and WBHHS to deliver an exceptional experience for the next generation of doctors in regional Queensland."

For three aspiring Rockhampton doctors' acceptance into the CQUniversity course is a dream come true as they can now remain in their hometowns' close to family and friends' while they complete their medical studies.

Tylin Guthrie who recently completed Year 12 at The Cathedral College in Rockhampton said she was delighted to be offered a place in the course as she can now follow her career goal to Close the Gap when it comes to Indigenous healthcare.

"As a proud Darumbal woman' I see this as a remarkable opportunity to make a difference in my community.

"The Close the Gap campaign is built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved by 2030.

"My career goals are to continue to close the gap after this date' until Australia's First Nations peoples are equal in health and life to non-Indigenous Australians'" said Ms Guthrie.

Ms Guthrie also said that the course being established in Central Queensland cemented her decision to study medicine.

"It is safe to say that my final decision to study medicine' in conjunction with my intentions of contributing to the Closing the Gap campaign' came after seeing that an end-to-end medical training program would be delivered in Rockhampton."

Fellow school leavers Dylan Bertucci (Emmaus College) and Jay Warcon (Heights College) also agreed that the delivery of an end-to-end medical program in Central Queensland was a benefit to students and to the local community' as regional areas were the most impacted when it comes to doctor shortages.

Mr Warcon said he was excited about one day becoming a doctor and practicing his profession on Country.

"I am a First Nations student from the Darumbal tribe' who are the Indigenous Traditional Owners of the Rockhampton/Yeppoon region.

"Therefore' residing and working locally means I will be able to work as a health professional on Darumbal land. This will allow me to be more relatable to Darumbal and other Aboriginal patients' as they will potentially feel more comfortable communicating with an Aboriginal doctor (me).

"In doing this' I believe that I will be able to do my part in helping to reduce health issues impacting Indigenous Australians' and the high mortality rate of Aboriginal people.

"Furthermore' I will become one of the first Darumbal doctors when I graduate from university' which will be an amazing privilege. Overall' I want to be in the position where I can save lives' help people make a full recovery and promote the importance of health to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people'" he said.

Dylan Bertucci explained that he had always hoped to study medicine but felt privileged to now do this in the region he grew up in.

"I decided that medicine was the career path for me in grade 10' and I was prepared to move away to follow it. After hearing of the possibility of studying at home in Rockhampton I was very happy that I wouldn't have to relocate to study.

"I am really looking forward to meeting the other students and being part of a small cohort of students who have a commitment to regional healthcare outcomes.

"Unfortunately' rural and regional areas are chronically underserved in terms of healthcare. Having doctors trained in these areas makes them more likely to remain there after study' hopefully making for better health outcomes overall in these areas.

"I think it is really exciting that myself and my fellow students as part of this foundation year of the program will have the potential to change this trend and give back to our communities'" he said.

The Bachelor of Medical Science (Pathway to Medicine) course will commence delivery in March and 40 students in total will make up the foundation year of the pathway program (20 places offered in each Bundaberg and Rockhampton).

During their first year of the course students will complete study in several medical science foundation units and will also undertake observational clinical placements in diverse healthcare settings.

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