UOW celebrates 10 years of medicine in Clarence Valley

UOW celebrates 10 years of medicine in Clarence Valley

High proportion of graduates opt to work in regional areas

The University of Wollongong (UOW) School of Medicine will celebrate its ongoing 10-year presence in the Clarence Valley this week.

The first cohort of long-stay medical students arrived in July 2009 through the North Coast Medical Education Collaboration, a joint program of UOW, the University of Sydney and Western Sydney University.

Head of School and Dean of Medicine, Professor Paul de Souza will be part of a delegation to Grafton, where UOW representatives will meet with the Chamber of Commerce, clinicians, policymakers, Council representatives and health care administrators to discuss the future of UOW’s presence in the area.

The delegation will visit the Clarence Valley on 5-6 November, and will include Associate Dean and Director of Community, Primary, Remote and Rural Medicine Professor David Garne, Associate Professor Rowena Ivers and Belinda Smith.

Professor de Souza said the medical program appears to be working well, since doctors graduating from UOW are opting to work in rural or regional areas, including towns like Grafton.

“Wollongong is a leading university as far as that success is concerned,” Professor de Souza said.

“Roughly 70 per cent of our students who enter the medical program each year come from rural areas and 60 per cent of our graduates end up working in rural and regional areas.”

Three quarters of UOW medical students undertake a long-term placement of 12 months clinical training in a rural areas of NSW, with many students training rurally for much longer.

Dozens of medical students who have undertaken placements at the hospital and GP clinics over the years have felt at home in Grafton.

“They’re made to feel very welcome, from what I understand, and a couple of them have started going back to complete elective placements in Grafton, even before graduating,” Professor de Souza said.

“The medical students really get to know the GPs, families, and the community. Some of them start to put down roots, which is a drawcard to attracting them back.”

In addition to the medical student program, UOW, in partnership with the University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore, also operates the Clarence Valley arm of the North NSW Regional Training Hub. This program has the aims of developing increased opportunities for post-graduate training in the region as well as supporting medical students in their future career decision-making.

Professor de Souza said there were still not enough incentives for doctors to move to regional areas.

In his visit to Grafton, the delegation will ask about the community’s needs, and brainstorm ways to help. 

Fifty people have registered for the celebration dinner on Tuesday night.

“It’s incredible, it speaks to the depth of the relationship we have with the community in Grafton,” Professor de Souza said.

The delegation also hopes to meet with the health manager of the new Clarence Correctional Centre, which will bring to the area a greater demand for health care services once the 1700-bed facility is operational in 2020.