Six Tasmanian students have enriched their educations after receiving Royal Flying Doctor Service Tasmania scholarships. The scholarships allowed medical, nursing and dental assistant students to gain experience working with the RFDS in rural or remote Australia.
RFDS Tasmania chief executive John Kirwan said the amount of scholarships doubled from three in 2015 to six in 2016. The scholarships were presented on Thursday at the RFDS Launceston base. The new scholarships were the result of a significant donation from former members of the Commercial Travellers Association of Tasmania.
Melanie Withers, of Launceston, will soon graduate from medicine at the University of Tasmania. She received the Fred McKay Medical Student Scholarship. She spent two weeks with the RFDS at Broken Hill in NSW, and two weeks in Launceston with Ambulance Tasmania flight paramedics as an observer in RFDS aircrafts. Ms Withers said while working out of the RFDS Broken Hill base, she experienced running GP clinics in small communities.
“Other days we did retrieval medicine, so I went to an ... accident where a motorbike hit an emu,” she said.
Her time in Launceston involved transporting patients to Melbourne or around Tasmania. Ms Withers said working out of the Broken Hill based changed her perspective around remote medicine.
“I think it’s something in Tasmania we take for granted, I met people who travel 900 km, drive 12 hours, to get treatment ... whereas here we’re quite fortunate,” she said.
Ms Withers will complete an internship at the Launceston General Hospital in 2017.
“I really like the emergency medicine, but I also love general practice, so it’s one of those things I’ll have to experience to decide,” she said.
Ms Withers she was thankful for the personally and professionally eye-opening scholarship. Mr Kirwan “the more staff … we can have working in remote and rural areas the better it is for those communities”. He said the scholarships “certainly” could ignite a passion for rural medicine.