Medicine: where will it take you?

29 August 2014

The Joint Medical Program has a strong focus on clinical experience ensuring its graduates are prepared for a rewarding medical career. Third year medical student, Catherine Hicks, travelled to Nepal for one of the most awe-inspiring experiences she has had in the past three years as a medical student.

Nepal hospital wardCatherine spent eight weeks at a regional hospital in Pokhara, Nepal in the Paediatrics, Neonatal Intensive Care and Obstetrics, and Gynaecology departments as part of her Health Equity Selective in third year.

"In the paediatric ward, doctors would see 36 coughing and sneezing patients with a mouldy sink, a tiny flake of soap and sodden towel to wash their hands. In the Obstetrics department, pregnant women would overflow on benches in the corridor or thin foam mattresses on the floor. A walk down the hallways would take you past several dogs and the occasional cow."Nepal hospital

The hospital has only 300 beds and sees over 1,000 outpatients each day, and ratios of one physician for every 21,205 people.

The contrast between the over-crowded, under-resourced and unhygienic hospital to the gleaming, sterilised surfaces of Australia's hospitals was formidable.

"The doctors and nurses demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination to make the best of their circumstances. Staff seemed to have a skill for using minimal resources for maximum benefit and the lack of equipment did not falter their patient management" said Catherine.

Surgeons in Nepal "The healthcare situation in Nepal is not of their making, yet they, with their patience and skill in the midst of nothing - hold the system together".

Catherine received a grant from the Medical Insurance Group Australia (MIGA) and allocated the funds to the paediatrics, neonatal and obstetrics wards to purchase what is considered basic medical supplies in Australia: foetal dopplers, pulse oximeters and blood pressure cuffs in adult and paediatric sizes.

"It is a seemingly small step, I smile every time I think of a mother listening to the foetal heart beat of her baby for the first time."Catherine with newborn

Despite being unsure of where her medical career is taking her, Catherine is sure that this experience will always guide her to serve those less fortunate.

Applications to the 2015 Joint Medical Program are now open. Apply before 30 September, 2014.

Photo credit to Steve Sutton.

Contact: Joint Medical Program
Contact Phone: 4921 6924
Contact Email: jmpcommunications@newcastle.edu.au