By Kirra Grimes

A NEW crop of Monash University medical students has arrived in Leongatha, ready to get a taste of life as a country GP.
The seven students, all in the penultimate year of their undergraduate medical studies, will complete clinical placements at Foster, Leongatha, Korumburra and Wonthaggi over the next six months, working alongside local GPs in what’s known as ‘wave’ or ‘parallel’ consulting, where the student sees a patient alone for the initial part of a consultation, and is joined by the GP for the conclusion.
The students will also attend regular tutorials at Monash’s School of Rural Health hub at the Leongatha Hospital.
Thanks to a restructuring of Monash’s Rural Health program, the seven students will have a shorter stay than previous cohorts, heading to tertiary hospitals elsewhere in Victoria in the second half of the year to complete their specialty training, rather than remaining in South Gippsland for the entire 12 months and undertaking specialty training at Leongatha Hospital, as per the original model of delivery.
Academic coordinator at the School of Rural Health Jenni Casey nevertheless hopes the community will help make the students feel at home during their placements.
“The whole point of rural placements is to encourage people to work in rural areas, so hopefully, if we give them a really good experience, they’ll think about that later on down the line,” Ms Casey said.
“And we have had a number of students who’ve completed the placement and gone on to work in rural areas.”

Rural lifestyle appeals
Among those supporting the students during their placements is Dr David Iser, who’s been working as a GP in Foster for the past 39 years.
Dr Iser said there was a lot to love about working in a rural area and was encouraged to see some of the students expressing an interest in following a similar path.
“There’s an incredible amount of variety in terms of the work you get to do, and the medical challenges you’re presented with,” he said.
“But what I like most about it is just the warmth and friendliness of country people, and being part of a small community. In South Gippsland, you’ve got the beaches and the Prom, so there’s a lot of scope for outdoor activities. It’s also a safe environment to bring children up in.”
One student already keen on the country GP lifestyle was Lewis Waight, who’ll be completing his six-month placement at Foster Medical Centre.
“Growing up on the coast, I’d eventually like to end up back there. I like being in a small country town, knowing everyone, and the idea of seeing different generations of families as patients,” Lewis said.
Among the current crop of medical students, Lewis said it was mostly those who’d grown up in rural areas, like himself, that wanted to pursue careers in such areas, but that even city folk could be persuaded after experiencing small town charms for themselves.
“People from the city are less inclined to pick it, but a lot of them change their minds once they have the experience.
“That’s definitely something I’ve noticed, just from past students saying they never thought they’d want to be out in the country but that’s where they ended up.
“I haven’t had much experiencing working in a rural area, but you can already tell it’s really close knit. Just in two days of being here [South Gippsland], I’ve already got so many contacts and suggestions of sporting clubs to join; even people offering to take me fishing!”