CALLS to destigmatise and heighten interest in a medical career in the bush were realised at the weekend.
Almost 100 university health students converged on Wagga for the annual Rural Appreciation Weekend (RAW) run by the Rural Allied Health and Medical Society (RAHMS) at University of NSW (UNSW) to experience the rewards of country living and learn about rural health.
University of Western Sydney fourth-year medical student Tom Patterson, 23, remained undecided whether he'd seek a rural position upon graduating at the end of next year, but welcomed the insight.
"The key is educating about issues that affect rural communities, learning about job opportunities and debunking rumours or stigmas about working rurally," he said of RAW.
"(The country) is not a place for people who can't get a job.
"You're given different opportunities and extremely high job satisfaction."
Tom, who's midway though a one-year rural placement in Lismore, was one of 90 delegates across the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, paramedics, optometry and occupational therapy to attend the annual event.
The weekend featured speakers from the health field, including rural GP Dr Marietjie van der Merwe, lung specialist Dr Adriaan Venter and dentist Dr Mark Wotherspoon.
Based mostly at local emergency doctor Tom Heaney's Wagga farm, Saturday's program involved students rotating through presentations and workshops before being bussed to the Downside Bushdance, while yesterday the students participated in farmwork and a simulated rural disaster scenario.
RAW co-convenor Lucy McMullen, a 21-year-old fourth-year UNSW medical student living in Wagga, said the weekend involved creating positive experiences of rural life.
"It's also trying to broaden the face of rural health," she said.
"It's not just looking at farming accidents or motorbike accidents, we're also looking at things like refugee health status.
"We know the literature says if students have a positive experience in he country, it increases the likelihood of them working rurally.
"Also, country students themselves often do come back too.
"They seem to love it."
Co-convenor Laavanya Aruneswaran, 21, explained the perks of working in the country outweighed those of a city.
"You get way more experience in all areas," she said.
"The atmosphere in rural areas is different, the doctors know you, rather than losing yourself in the city."
"I think once you get out of the city and see there's not only one Woolworth's and it's not as deserted and isolated as some people think."