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29 August 2023

Help shape our future medical workforce

Each year, James Cook University (JCU) puts the call out for volunteers from a variety of backgrounds to play an important role in the selection process for JCU’s highly regarded Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS)

The selection process is a rigorous one, with the university receiving upwards of 4,000 applications for the course annually. From this pool, around 650 will be invited to attend an interview with a panel. And that’s where you can help. 

The panel is generally made up of one healthcare professional, a representative from JCU and a member of the community. JCU is looking for more volunteers across the board to help select the 2024 first-year medicine cohort. 

As current and past volunteers will tell you, being part of the process is very rewarding. With guidance from the JCU Medicine Selections team, volunteers are well supported as they take on the important task of helping select a student cohort that is values-aligned with JCU’s commitment to rural health, and passionate about working in underserved communities. 

As we approach recruitment for our 2024 intake, we spoke to two of our volunteer doctors who have enjoyed volunteering on the medical selection panel for many years. 

Seeking rural and regional doctors of the future 

Townsville University Hospital’s Director of Medical Services Workforce, Dr Jon Hodge, says he has a vested interest in selecting our future doctors. 

Dr Hodge became a doctor in 1985 and has also worked for the Australian Defence Force and Townsville’s Mater Hospital over the course of his career. 

“My reasoning for being involved has changed over the years. I've been at Townsville hospital for the last six years and obviously have quite a bit to do with the medical school in my role,” Dr Hodge says.  

“When I was in the military I was involved because I thought it was a good thing to do. Now, I can see down the pipeline – the successful applicants will be our junior doctors of the future. 

“I’m part of the panel charged with making sure that we get some really good junior doctors. Particularly junior doctors who want to stay in North Queensland after they’ve trained here. 

“We are certainly looking for medical students who are interested in working in regional, rural and remote Australia. They are the ones we want to attract, train, and hopefully entice to stay or move to the areas they are most needed.” 

Dr Hodge says good doctors come from varied backgrounds with a few common traits setting them apart. 

“You do need to have a certain intellectual capacity and I think curiosity is a part of it,” Dr Hodge says. “You have to be doing it for the right reasons. Medicine is not a ‘nine to five’ career, it is a bit of a vocation. 

“You need to be motivated to help people, but it is a very broad church. We have lots of doctors with different skill sets who can generally find a specialty to suit their capacity and motivation. 

“And the advantage of being based in Townsville is that we can actually offer training in most of those specialty areas.” 

The high demand for JCU Medicine spots 

“Because it's one of the few undergraduate Medicine courses left in Australia, we get lots of applications. That is why the selection process is really important. We want to find people who want to do it for the right reasons,” Dr Hodge says. 

“I want to know why they want to do an undergraduate medical degree with a particular focus on rural, remote, Indigenous and tropical medicine. Hopefully, it is with an intent to practice somewhere outside the main metropolitan areas of Australia.” 

Dr Hodge says working with a team to help select the medical workforce of the future has proved very rewarding year after year. 

“Once we get into the interviews, I find it really enjoyable. You're talking to a group of eager, young — and sometimes not so young — people who are enthusiastic about the profession and who have done some research about the course,” he says. 

“I come out of the selection process feeling proud of the profession and with great hope for the medical professionals of the future.” 

Giving back to the profession he served 

For Dr Bob Jones, a retired oral and maxillofacial surgeon with a long association with JCU, being involved in the medical selection panels was an important way to continue to contribute to his profession. 

Dr Jones is a former Townsville Hospital Oral and Maxillofacial unit head of department who also taught both medicine and dentistry, as his specialty is relevant to both disciplines. 

“JCU is a regional university and we look to promote and encourage people to go into rural medicine. I absolutely agree with that,” Dr Jones says. 

Dr Jones says he has always been passionate about promoting and expanding medicine across regional and remote Australia. In fact, he spent the latter part of his career lobbying for improvements in this area.  

He says people from across Australia applied to study medicine at JCU because the course had an excellent reputation. It was important to give all the applicants an opportunity, but the aim was to select students who were passionate about rural and remote medicine, he says, with medicine being a broad and rewarding career choice. 

“They are the people who want to do good for other people. Of course, there are lots of areas within medicine, but we are primarily dealing with people all the time,” he says. 

Dr Jones, who now lives in Adelaide, says more medical professionals should consider getting involved because the technology and interview process allows you to be involved from any location. 

JCU moved the interview process online following the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and this format will continue for the 2024 interviews. 

Want to get involved? 

Clinicians, members of the public, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community members and JCU staff and adjuncts are invited to apply to be a volunteer interviewer for the medical selections panel. 

Interviews will be held from the 28 November – 5 December 2023 and 2 – 3 January 2024, with interviewer training conducted in September. Interviews are conducted with a morning and afternoon session, with each panel interviewing approximately five applicants. 

JCU also provides a selection pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants with an interview panel made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members. These interviews take place on 30 November and 5 – 6 December, with interviewer training held in November. 

  • If you are interested in becoming a new volunteer, you can register here. 
  • Register here if you are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander wanting to participate in the interviews for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants. 
  • Previous interviewers register here. 

NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

Cairns region
(07) 4226 8187

Central West region
(07) 4764 1547

Mackay region
(07) 4885 7122

North West region
(07) 4764 1547

Torres and Cape region
(07) 4095 6103

Townsville region
(07) 4781 3424