Celebrating 10 years of rural medicine placements

Dr Molly Atkinson would not have her family if it was not for her rural placement to Stanthorpe.

Griffith University is celebrating 10 years of providing medical students with hands-on experience in rural communities through its partnership with Queensland Rural Medical Education.

The Queensland Rural Medical Longlook Program has grown from just four participants in 2010 to 48 third- and fourth-year students completing long term placements in the Darling Downs and a further 50 students allocated to seven-week short term General Practice placements.

Students on their rural placement.

Dr Molly Atkinson discovered her love for rural medicine as one of the first participants in the program a decade ago and was later drawn back to her placement location of Stanthorpe to build not just her career, but a life and family.

“The Longlook program provided me with the opportunity to study and work in a small rural area which gave my insight into the life of a rural GP and all the opportunities it entailed,” Molly said.

“I would never have ended up here, with my work and family, living in a town that I love, if I had not been placed here as a medical student.”

Molly returned to Stanthorpe for her GP training in 2013 and fell in love with her now-husband, Michael, with whom she maintained a long-distance relationship as she spent time working in Adelaide and Toowoomba before returning to the small country town.

She now works for Granite Belt Medical Services and loves the variety rural medicine affords her.

Professor David Ellwood.

“Rural general practice is much more hands on (than in a metro area) and you can admit your own patients at Stanthorpe Hospital and follow through with their care,” she said.

“The patients have been the best surprise.

“When I was here as a student, they were so helpful and willing to do anything to help my training and advance my skills.

“Their continued support after I returned to town has been lovely.”

Head of Griffith’s School of Medicine Professor David Ellwood said the Longlook program has been “extremely successful” over the past decade and expected it to continue that way in the future.

“If we are to contribute to growing the rural workforce it is essential that medical students spend a significant period of their study time experiencing what it would be like to live and work in a rural setting,” Professor Ellwood said.

Sites for the program now include Stanthorpe, Warwick, Kingaroy, Dalby and Gympie.

For more information, head to the Queensland Rural Medical Longlook Program website.