Australian Medical Students' Association hits out at Murray Darling Medical School proposal

OTHER OPTIONS: Medical students Cristy Rowe and Jenna Mewburn, who is also the Australian Medical Students' Association's Rural Health Committee secretary. Picture: Les Smith
OTHER OPTIONS: Medical students Cristy Rowe and Jenna Mewburn, who is also the Australian Medical Students' Association's Rural Health Committee secretary. Picture: Les Smith

A peak national student body has taken a swipe at a proposal for a medical school in Wagga.

Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has criticised the Murray Darling Medical School (MDMS) plan, saying the government should instead invest in “rural specialty training pathways”. 

But proponents of the MDMS said AMSA was “opposing the legitimate aspirations of the people living in (regional areas) to establish their own local medical school to address chronic rural doctor shortages”.

AMSA has launched a campaign, Doctors for Rural Communities, which aims to correct the maldistribution of doctors away from rural areas by increasing specialty training in regional centres.

AMSA Rural Health Committee secretary and third year medical student Jenna Mewburn, who is currently studying for her degree in Wagga, said there were already too many medical graduates in Australia with not enough post-graduate opportunities.

“The next step in addressing the rural doctor shortage is to retain current medical students and junior doctors, not produce more graduates who cannot fulfil their training requirements to become a doctor,” Ms Mewburn said. 

“Graduates have to return to the city to specialise.”

Charles Sturt and La Trobe University vice-chancellors Professors Andrew Vann and John Dewar defended its medical school proposal in a joint statement, saying the AMSA proposition assumed if metropolitan medical students were able to access more medical training in rural areas, then they would stay in rural areas to work after completing their training.

The vice-chancellors said evidence did not support AMSA’s stance.

A recent Deans of Medicine study found that only 4.6 per cent of medical students in their final year expressed an interest in working in small towns and rural communities.

“We simply cannot as a nation meet the needs of the 30 per cent of Australians that live in rural and regional areas with fewer than 10 per cent of the Australian medical graduates choosing rural practice,” Professor Andrew Vann said.

“Until we address the entrenched negative attitudes of metropolitan medical graduates to rural practice, our rural hospitals ... will simply become a high quality training ground for city doctors as they are today.”