Pete Saunders beginning his medical prac at Murwillumbah Hospitals training facility.
Pete Saunders beginning his medical prac at Murwillumbah Hospitals training facility. Blainey Woodham

Mur'bah boy comes home as a doctor

NINE fresh-faced medical students from the University of Wollongong will be spending the next year in the Tweed learning from our experienced health professionals.

Among the eager group is Pete Saunders, a born and bred Murwillumbah man.

In the next 12 months he will spend two days a week in a GPs office and two days at Murwillumbah Hospital.

"We're here to gain further experience as it's our final year of practical training," he said.

Mr Saunders said he would be parallel consulting with the doctors for some time before seeing patients one-on-one.

"Everyone's really excited," he said. "We're all keen to be here in the Tweed and it's one of the sought-out spots."

He said Tweed had one of the best reputations for health services in the state.

Living and working in a rural environment can be rewarding personally and professionally, and that's the message we try to get across to our medical students.

After two days on the job Mr Saunders said he was loving the experience but had not made a decision on his permanent career path.

"I still have my options open," he said. "I'm not fully set on a career path but I like being in the GP office and I like the surgery side."

Mr Saunders left Murwillumbah after graduating from Murwillumbah High in 2003 to study for a Bachelor of Science at Griffith University in 2004.

He began his degree at the University of Wollongong Graduate School of Medicine in 2011 and is expected to graduate at the end of next year. Being placed in the Tweed is also good for his social life.

"I'm really excited to be back living here," he said.

The university's associate professor, David Garne, who oversees the clinical placements program, said the best way to encourage young doctors to practice medicine in rural communities after they graduated was to introduce them to life in a country town while they were students.

"Living and working in a rural environment can be rewarding personally and professionally, and that's the message we try to get across to our medical students," Prof Garne said.

"For a start they will have more opportunities to undertake procedural medicine - obstetrics, anesthetics, some surgical procedures … than if they did their clinical training in the city.

"The whole idea is to immerse our students in a regional or rural community for 38 weeks, and help them make their career choices after that. Whether they want to be a GP or to specialise, hopefully they will have an underlying desire to work in a regional or rural setting."



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