"I have undertaken my rotations in wonderful hospitals and have been able to observe healthcare in other countries. The teaching at Melbourne is excellent. All of my lecturers are esteemed professors and knowledgeable clinicians who are world leaders in their respective fields."
Doctor of Medicine student Andrew's relationship with the University of Melbourne began when he was a Year 10 student at home in the north-eastern Victorian town of Wangaratta. He gained entry into the Kwong Lee Dow Young Scholars program, which saw him making regular visits to the University and benefitting from tutoring and seminars.
"Because of this early contact with the University, I never really considered studying elsewhere. Also, I received a couple of scholarships at Melbourne which was a further incentive. I decided to stay on and study postgraduate medicine at Melbourne because the course really appealed to me. After spending three years in lecture theatres, the fact that you are on the wards full time from second year onwards was a huge tick. Plus, the Melbourne Medical School is highly reputable and the top medical school in the country," says Andrew.
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Moving to Melbourne
Initially, Andrew, 25, found the transition from Wangaratta to busy Melbourne life a huge adjustment.
“Wangaratta has a population of 20,000 people, and I had the support of family and friends. Meanwhile Melbourne has a population of millions, and I did not know anyone when I made the move! That being said, I thrived living in Melbourne. I loved the independence, and all of the opportunities that uni life affords. In the end, it was probably the simple things that I found most difficult. Namely, the traffic (I was terrified of trams while driving for quite a while), navigating the city via public transport (there were multiple occasions where I ended up on the wrong tram line) and domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning and washing!”
But Andrew soon found much to love about the big smoke, especially for a sports lover.
"I love everything about Melbourne. I love the terrific sporting culture: the buzz before a big AFL game at the ‘G; the crowds at Flemington; the hot summer days at Melbourne Park during the Australian Open; the iconic Boxing Day test. I could go on and on – Melbourne truly is the sporting capital of the world. I also love the food and the coffee that Melbourne offers. Whether it’s fine dining, boutique bars or hipster cafes, Melbourne has you covered. It would be remiss of me to not mention the shopping as well. Coming from Wangaratta, where no shops were open past 12pm on a Saturday, it is wonderful to be able to shop all weekend!," he jokes.
When asked about making friends, Andrew recommended being proactive and getting involved.
"There are so many like-minded people to meet at university that it’s impossible not to make friends. If you are fortunate to stay at college, you’re set! I never did stay at college, so I made friends through sporting clubs, a couple of the clubs and societies, and of course by striking up a conversation with those around me during lectures and tutorials."
Andrew has found his time at university to be hugely worthwhile.
"During my undergraduate degree I learnt from researchers who were at the top of their fields and I was able to hone my practical skills in state-of-the-art facilities. During my postgraduate degree, I have come into contact with clinicians who have inspired me. I have undertaken my rotations in wonderful hospitals and have been able to observe healthcare in other countries. The teaching at Melbourne is excellent. All of my lecturers are esteemed professors and knowledgeable clinicians who are world leaders in their respective fields. It’s impossible not to become passionate about a particular topic when the lecturer is so captivating."
During his time at the University, Andrew has begun to discover just what he is capable of:
“I have become a very independent learner. In high school, you rely on others for your learning. As you progress through university, you begin to rely less on others and more on yourself. I have learnt how to research, how to critique what I read and how to question everything.
“I have discovered that I am a resilient person. I am part of the Rural Clinical School, and so I’ve had to relocate each year. This has meant leaving my support networks behind and developing new supports. This has instilled confidence in me to be independent, so much so that I went on elective for four weeks in another country by myself.
“The proudest moment of my studies came while I was completing my medical elective in Vanuatu in January 2017, when I was able to deliver a baby girl. It was 4am, the rain was pelting down, and I was in the severely under-resourced labour ward at the local hospital. The midwife on night shift was called away to someone else, and so I had to manage this woman in labour by myself. Although slightly terrifying, it was a wonderful experience and fortunately there were no complications.”
Andrew wanted his first clinical year to be in a smaller rural hospital. He was keen to have access to one-on-one teaching and to practice procedural skills. In his first clinical year at the University of Melbourne’s Rural Clinical School, Shepparton and Goulburn Valley Health, he saw his confidence and skill level improving faster than he expected.
"We tend to see the very common ailments such as airways disease, heart attacks, heart failure and managing chronic conditions and acute exacerbations of these conditions. Its good experience because it’s the 'bread and butter' of medicine that you are expected to be able to manage and treat. This also prepares us well for our exams where we are examined on the common things that we are expected to do at intern level.
"I feel very lucky with the quality of teaching we have received and the willingness of the doctors to spend their time with us to explain things. Sometimes learning can be very spontaneous – you can be at the right place at the right time, and if a consultant sees you’re keen and motivated they might drag you along to whatever they are doing. So you get this additional experience that is in addition to what is part of the schedule.
"I have had so much practice in procedural skills and developed a lot of confidence in approaching patients and speaking to them. It’s very easy to have access to patients who are very approachable and very accommodating.
"I enjoy living in Shepparton and have joined the local gym and local SES to try to get involved in the community as much as I can, and assist with any accidents wherever the SES is called out.
"Involvement with the community is important. It makes you feel like you are a part of the town. Half the medical students in the course tutor every Wednesday night at the Smith Family."
Career in Health
The skills and knowledge Andrew has acquired at university has prepared him for a rewarding career in health.
"At this point in time I am hoping to pursue a career in paediatrics. The ability to impact a child’s next seventy years, and enable them to reach their full potential, is something that does not exist in any other specialty. As for where – I want to work all over Australia; large cities, regional areas and small rural towns. With that in mind, I have no idea where I will physically be located in ten years’ time, but wherever I am I hope to be making a difference in the lives of those around me."
Andrew completed the Graduate Diploma in Surgical Anatomy in 2019.