UOW aims to address rural doctor shortage

Growing up on a remote property an hour’s drive from Walgett – nine hours north-west of Sydney – means Hugh Stump knows how vital doctors are in rural towns.

The 24-year-old has just started a medical degree at the University of Wollongong’s Graduate School of Medicine, where almost 70per cent of the 86 first-year students come from country backgrounds.

Dean, Professor Alison Jones, said this was the highest percentage of rural medical students in NSW, making UOW a leader in rural and regional medicine.

She said the Australian average for rural enrolment was about 25per cent.

‘‘We are the only medical school in Australia whose admissions process looks equally at outstanding academic achievement, along with a proven commitment to rural and regional communities and active community engagement,’’ she said.

By becoming a doctor, Mr Stump will follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and great-grandfather.

By studying in Wollongong, he hopes to be able to do something about the chronic doctor shortage facing  towns like Walgett.

‘‘There are big health issues there, especially with the indigenous population, and there’s a massive doctors shortage in those areas,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do after I graduate, but to some degree I would like to return home and do something in rural or indigenous health.’’

Prof Jones said UOW’s six-year-old medical program had already started to address the shortage of healthcare professionals in rural Australia.

All students are required to spend at least 12 months of their four-year degree working in regional, remote or rural locations.

‘‘Fifty-two per cent of our first graduating class chose to do their medical internship in a regional or rural area and that figure rose to 67.5per cent by 2011,’’  she said.

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