Dr Marc Burton came to Bundaberg in his third year of medical school and liked it so much he hasn’t left.
Now aged 30 and a soon to be a principal house officer in mental health as part of his residency rotations, the Canberra-born doctor reckons each passing year reinforces the good decision he made to live and work in Bundaberg.
And he believes many others like him will benefit hugely from a new regional medical program that will allow aspiring doctors in Wide Bay to complete their entire medical education locally.
This week, CQUniversity and The University of Queensland signed a landmark agreement that will enable students to complete a three-year Bachelor of Medical Science (Pathway to Medicine) course at CQU, before moving into UQ’s four-year Doctor of Medicine (MD) program – both offered either in Bundaberg or Rockhampton.
The program is being delivered in partnership with Wide Bay and Central Queensland hospital and health services, which will provide student placements, internship opportunities and postgraduate training places.
In Wide Bay this will include its major hospitals in Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Maryborough, as well as its rural hospitals and multipurpose health services.
Dr Burton said he believed having access to a medical program in Wide Bay would make a big difference to local students, who would be more likely to continue their careers in the region because they were invested in and connected with it.
“It’s really critical that we have a good tie between the medical school and the health service because it allows us to integrate all levels of the training pathway into what is practical, what is realistic and what is relevant,” he said.
“There’s nothing worse than having subjects that are based purely in the theoretical and have no application. If you’re going into the hospital as a medical student and seeing how it’s applicable, it really enhances your learning experience.
“Spending time in the rural facilities, you see everything from someone with a stubbed toe to a heart attack, and you’re the one dealing with it, but with good support if you need it – for instance, via telehealth with our emergency departments and or tertiary facilities.
“That’s not something you get as a resident in Brisbane.
“The more provision of technology and services for doctors ultimately means the more provision of services for patients – plus more students will come here if they can see they’ll have a good experience and there is good support around them.”
The junior doctor said living and working in Wide Bay had been a great opportunity for him on a range of levels.
“I wanted to experience working in a place where you get a much broader representation rather than being so sub-specialised in every single department on every single day,” he said.
“You get a much broader understanding of medicine and, in my opinion, a much better understanding of medicine. You also get more opportunities.
“The social life, in terms of being able to go down to the beach or go out on the weekends, makes a difference too.
“A number of us who became friends in our first year moved up to Bundaberg together because we recognised the benefits it could have for our careers.
“Having that network really makes a difference, both in terms of work as having someone to talk to professionally, as well as socially – which is one of the greatest benefits of being in a place like Bundaberg.
“That broad range of opportunities – clinically, academically and socially – is what drove me to want to try Bundaberg for a year and, since then, I’ve only become more sure I made the right choice.”