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In 2023, Rural Health West sponsored two medical students to attend the 2023 Australian Medical Students’ Association conference – The Frontier of Healthcare Delivery – in Darwin. Here they share what they gained from the experience.

Matthew Halliday, Curtin University second year medical student

“I was fortunate enough to attend the AMSA Rural Health Summit in Darwin thanks to support from Rural Health West this year.”

“The conference was amazing, from the range of immersive workshops delving into rural, remote and retrieval medicine, to passionate doctors giving us their valuable experiences in tropical medicine or working with vulnerable populations. I really enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the conference!

“We were thrown into a simulated car crash scene with three “patients” to manage, before arriving as the retrieval team in the back of a training helicopter filled with breathing realistic dummies provided via FlightCare. The doctors there taught us how to manage severe injuries, to work as a team, and most importantly, how to think and not panic during an emergency. Regional Australia is vast, so it was fascinating to see how we can care for our most isolated patients via helicopters!

“One of the key takeaways from my time in the Northern Territory was the sheer need for health services for the community, and how appreciative the community was to their medical professionals.

“I was really touched by this, and it has encouraged the idea of becoming a rural generalist after I graduate. I was equally inspired by my peers there too, it was really
motivating to meet, have fun, and learn from so many likeminded medical students from across the country.

“I am very appreciative to Rural Health West for supporting me for attend this Summit as it has really solidified my appreciation and the appeal of working in outback

Sudarshan Guruparan, Curtin University medical student

“Growing up in a rural area I was already aware of the problems that rural medicine faces. Even still I gained a deeper understanding on the matter as well as how rural practitioners cope
with being isolated from equipment and assistance.

“Tele-health and retrieval medicine are integral to the functioning of rural medicine. In rural areas there are often two nurses managing an extremely large area. The presence of retrieval medicine allows nurses to triage patients and keep them alive until they reach Darwin to receive medical attention.

“The main lesson that I took away my time in Darwin was “Are you better than no-one?”. Although you may not be able to manage everything that comes through those doors, you are able to help
a few people and make a serious impact on the community’s health outcomes.

“With rural and remote medicine, the simplest interventions can often be the most effective. Due to their distance from capital cities, public health policies often don’t reach these communities. A bar of soap and clean drinking water is just as effective for reducing malaria as treatment for the parasite itself. Health education and health literacy are very important, and showing people how these medicines work and how they are administered drastically improves patient compliance.

“The Rural Health Summit consolidated my feelings toward rural medicine, and I have learned about the professions that exist in rural medicine. I have found out through this summit that a career in infectious disease has a huge part to play in rural areas, something I wouldn’t have learned of until much later on otherwise. I am very interested in learning more about this branch of medicine and excited to explore this field.”

Acknowledgement of Country