YOUNG DOCTORS WANT TO STAY
By LEE McDOUGALL
"I LOVE Coffs Harbour and I have no desire to leave."
This is the strong, passionate statement from fifth-year student doctor Alison Mitchell who has spent the past two years attending the University of New South Wales Rural Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine at Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
'The what?', you may well ask.
UNSW's Rural Clinical School is perhaps one of Coffs Harbour's best kept secrets.
From small beginnings in 2001, the school now trains up to 30 young student doctors in their fourth, fifth and sixth year of training.
Ms Mitchell is just one 'local' student who is reaping the benefits of the school.
The former Coffs Harbour High School student believes she is far from educationally disadvantaged by attending the Rural School, as opposed to receiving her training in a Sydney-based health facility.
"I am not academically disadvantaged, in fact, the teachers and doctors here are as good, if not better, than those in Sydney," Ms Mitchell said.
This is echoed by fellow student doctors Joe Wilbers, a former Woolgoolga High School student, Rowen Seckold, formerly of Grafton High School, and Ben Seckold of Lithgow.
"The specialists around town and the local clinicians are so keen to give us their time on the wards," Mr Wilbers said.
"We have better access to patients on the wards here and you see a broader range of problems walking through the door than you do in the specialist Sydney facilities."
Yet while these young doctors-in-waiting are quick to espouse the many virtues of learning their profession here in Coffs Harbour, they are also critical of the absence of any ability to return to Coffs Harbour once their training is complete.
"I'm very keen to stay here to do my specialist training, but at the moment I have to leave, and once I leave, it will be so much harder to come back," Ms Mitchell said.
At present, there are no doctor intern positions available for UNSW student doctors at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
"I also know of two Sydney-based students who did their rotation here, and were keen to come back, but there was no internship available so they ended up going to Rockhampton," Mr Wilbers said.
nSee tomorrow's Coffs Coast Advocate for why there are no doctor internships available in Coffs Harbour and more on what the UNSW Rural Clinical School means to this city.