A new generation of doctors begin their training in Ballarat

TRAINING: Dr Shabna Rajapaksa with medical students Sarah Whitby and Mark McOwan at the University of Melbourne's Rural Clinical School.

TRAINING: Dr Shabna Rajapaksa with medical students Sarah Whitby and Mark McOwan at the University of Melbourne's Rural Clinical School.

Increasing numbers of student doctors are choosing to come to Ballarat for their clinical training.

University of Melbourne’s Rural Clinical School will this year have 50 second, third and fourth year post-graduate medical students completing their clinical training at Ballarat Health Services  – more than previous years.

Based at the historic Dunvegan property directly opposite Ballarat Base Hospital, the students combine lectures with clinical work on the hospital wards.

RCS joint deputy director medical student education Dr Shabna Rajapaksa said students had a choice to complete their studies at Rural Clinical School campuses Ballarat, Shepparton, Bendigo and Wangaratta, or one of three city-based clinical schools.

“What we aim to do is offer students a closer mentor experience between ourselves as clinicians and students,” Dr Rajapaksa said.

“It’s a smaller group than in the city which means they also get a sense of regional medicine and I think they enjoy the fact that we get to know them and they’re not just a face in the crowd. Our feedback suggests that’s a valued learning experience.

“We definitely encourage these guys to be part of the team – we value when they talk to patients and come and talk to the clinicians. That’s important”

The new cohort of 21 second year medical students are a mix of students who grew up in the city and regional areas.

Students Sarah Whitby and Mark McOwan started at BHS three weeks ago and are quickly finding their feet in the clinical system.

“From my experience I’ve found patients seem very open and willing to let us examine them and are happy to help us out,” Mr McOwan said.

A former St Patrick’s College student, Mr McOwan has returned to his home town for his studies and plans a career in regional medicine.

Dr Rajapaksa said students in regional areas enjoyed a wide breadth of experience.

“They will be going to outpatient clinics, in emergency, see people well and unwell, and get an understanding of the whole patient journey,” she said.