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Medical students broaden their knowledge

Sarah James, Community Lifestyle Services Specialist Services Manager, addresses UQ medical students and officials at the community and disability services session.

Eight University of Queensland (UQ) medical students are learning about working with people with a disability thanks to a unique initiative in Bundaberg.

The Brisbane students are on a two-week observership placement with UQ Rural Clinical School Bundaberg, including this week's community and disability services in Bundaberg session at Community Lifestyle Support (CLS).

Sarah James, CLS Specialist Services Manager, said the session devised with Dr Cavin Staff,  a retired orthopaedic surgeon and now Academic Lead for UQ’s Rural Clinical School, was designed to expose medical students to the needs of people with a disability.

“It’s often something that’s not touched upon in their course,” Sarah said.

“There are a lot of times where medical complications go unchecked for people with disabilities.

“So the specific point of coming out to Community Lifestyle Support is to learn a bit about people with a disability and how people with a disability have missed out in the medical space, and in getting proper medical treatment in the past.”

Geoff Mallett, a former Bundaberg pharmacist who is seeking to return as a medical doctor after noticing a lack of MDs in the city, is among the students participating in the initiative.

He said working alongside medical staff who were experienced in caring for people with disabilities had broadened his perspective on the provision of health care.

“We’ve been working with those who work with people with disabilities and seeing a different perspective of how they can be helped,” Geoff said.

“Rather than putting the treatment of people with disabilities all into one basket, we’ve been able to appreciate the different challenges that people with disabilities face.”

Geoff hoped to return to Bundaberg for the third and fourth years of his study ahead of starting his new career as an MD in his home town.

“I really want to come back and help a lot of patients because, when I was a pharmacist, I saw some patients struggle because it was hard to get in to see a doctor.

“It’s just a really good opportunity to give back to the town.”

Fellow student Katerina Balis said the entire observership program had been an eye-opening experience.

“You really do get a lot more hands-on, one-on-one experience and mentorship with the doctors and the staff at the rural clinical school compared to what you might get in a more metro area where it’s quite a lot busier,” Katerina said.

“It’s really given me a sense of how broad medicine can be. It’s not all like what you see on TV.”

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