Medicine: Dr Ben Jacka

Dr Ben Jacka is an Emergency Registrar passionate about educating the next generation of health professionals.

What led you to study at the University of Melbourne?

After a long hiatus from formal education, I returned to study at the University of Melbourne in 2007. I'd lived in Melbourne for almost 20 years before starting my BSc. The University's location helped significantly in the transition from working full-time, to working and studying part time. It led me to choose to study medicine at the University of Melbourne a few years later.

What are your strongest memories of your time at the University of Melbourne?

My strongest memories come from my pre-clinical years studying at the University of Melbourne, when we roamed the corridors of the Medical Building in Parkville. In particular, the key parts of the educational week; early morning lectures in the Sutherland theatre, the characteristic smells of the Anatomy Museum or the problem-based-learning (PBL) tutorials that began and ended each week.

Outside of the regimented study, relaxing in the shade of a summer afternoon on the South Lawn, drinking coffee from the new coffee shops that seemed to pop up regularly or guessing what clinical school would be like when students from their clinical years were spotted back on campus.

What goals did you set yourself when you finished University and have you stuck to that plan?

When I finished my MBBS at University of Melbourne my goal was to work and live in resource-poor and less developed parts of the world. My first post working overseas came after completing my intern year at Goulburn Valley Health, and second year at St Vincent's Health in Melbourne. I worked as a doctor for two years at a hospital in rural Malawi in a place called Mulanje. I returned to Australia at the end of my 4th year out of medical school. I will continue to spend time once I've specialised working in both Australia and overseas.

What/who motivated you at University?

When motivation was hard to come by I drew on the energy of friends and the passion of those who taught us. It mystified me how lecturers maintained enthusiasm when describing the inguinal canal or the physiology of the cardiac cycle. They managed it, and from what I've heard from junior colleagues also from UoM, they continue to manage it today. The friends which I shared the initial terrifying ordeal of bedside teaching in hospital I remain friends with today, dotted around Australia and abroad.

What advice do you have for current students?

My advice is to enjoy the life-journey of studying medicine. As a student, I was frequently asked and pressed on what type of doctor I would want to be when I'd finished studying. The answer for anyone studying medicine is never fixed. The world of medicine is so broad and varied that eventually everyone finds a place. Medical school serves as a basis for this, at the beginning of the journey, not the end.

What would you say is your greatest accomplishment since graduating?

Helping to teach medical students. In Malawi, one part of my role was as the supervisor for rotating students for a primary care term. I enjoyed immensely coaching and developing presentation skills of the students to senior colleagues and to each other in a peer education model. In Australia, there is a steady stream of medical students in our Emergency Department. In Ballarat, they shadow my work and direct them to interesting cases for learning medicine. More importantly for me, is having the opportunity to try and empassion them to think about working with those disadvantaged and marginalised in our community, here in Australia and overseas.

What does being successful mean to you?

Being successful is to begin and end each day feeling gratitude for enjoying what I get to do at work and for the experiences of living and working for those from differing communities and cultures.

All doctors should at some point in their career make the opportunity to take their skills and knowledge into a completely foreign context. It broadens our horizons and grounds us in the knowledge of how we are extremely fortunate and privilege to have the opportunities that medicine offers us.