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16 January 2024

New doctors seek out the Tropical Far North experience for Internship

New doctors seek out the Tropical Far North experience for Internship

New graduates from across the country join a strong contingent of Far North Queensland locals in the cohort of medical interns commencing at Cairns Hospital.

After years of studying, the next chapter of the medical journey has begun for 59 interns joining the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service in January, 2024. One in five of the cohort are from the Far North Queensland region, and 26 are North Queensland trained as JCU graduates.

The Interns will rotate through a variety of units during the 12 months, including general medicine, surgery, emergency medicine, and additional terms in other specialised areas. It ensures they get diverse experience across areas such as acute and critical care, chronic condition health care and perioperative care.

Among the interns undergoing orientation is Sophie Gampe, a born-and-bred Atherton local who completed her training at JCU. Sophie said she was passionate about rural medicine, in particular obstetrics and gynaecology.

“My mum is a doctor at Atherton Hospital, but I didn’t really want to follow in her footsteps until I explored my studying options in uni,” Sophie said. “I applied for medicine at JCU and got in and discovered a passion for women’s and reproductive health.”

Pictured: Intern and JCU graduate Dr Marco Soncin with Dr Sophie Gampe and Cairns Hospital Acting Director of Medical and Emergency Services, Dr Lachlan Gordon.

Rural placements to the Cape and Torres Strait region were a highlight for Dr Gampe and were part of her motivation for staying in her home region for internship.

“I just love rural medicine and working within tight, close-knit communities. I have the opportunity now to work in my own community. I chose to stay here because I know how welcoming and supportive the workforce is here at Cairns Hospital, and I know that is a huge benefit as you’re finding your feet as a doctor.

“Through all of my studying, I grew a real appreciation for what Mum does, but now I’m hoping to forge my own path, focussing on obstetrics and gynaecology.”

As well as locals, there is a strong contingent of interns from Brisbane and interstate, highlighting the appeal of Cairns as a training ground for junior doctors.

Originally from Melbourne, Dr Isabel Thompson graduated from post-graduate medicine in Brisbane last year. She says the Far North was appealing from both training and lifestyle perspectives.

“I wanted a smaller hospital experience because I knew it would come with more hands-on experiences and the opportunity to really get to know your team.

“We’re staying near the hospital and so we are getting quite familiar with the beautiful Esplanade. I love that there is so much going on all the time. It feels like I’m on a Tropical Holiday!” Dr Thompson says.

NQRTH Program Manager Ms Andrea Muller says it’s exciting to have a mix of locals and newcomers, highlighting the appeal of the training experience in northern Queensland.

“Cairns is a wonderful place to start your medical career,” Ms Muller says, “Junior doctors training in our regions receive direct access to consultants, get exposure to more complex and varied clinical work and will have greater autonomy compared to their counterparts in large metro hospitals."

"They also have access to nationally renowned researchers and JCU resources, allowing them to easily get involved in research projects.”

“We hope the experience these new doctors have as interns inspires them to stay on in the region and discover the many opportunities for pursuing specialty training here!” Ms Muller says.

There are 20 medical specialties and 14 sub-specialties that can be completed partially or fully in Cairns. Rural rotations and outreaches are available at Atherton, Innisfail, Mareeba, Mossman, Tully, Thursday Island, Weipa and Cooktown.

Dr Lachlan Gordon, Cairns Hospital’s Acting Director of Medical and Emergency Services, said CHHHS was a highly sought-after destination for junior doctors wanting to start their careers, especially working in regional and rural Australia.

“As a JCU graduate myself, I know the value of not only studying in northern Queensland but also working here as well,” he said.

“Many of our junior doctors are locals who have grown up here and want to give back to their communities by pursuing careers in medicine.

“They also have the opportunity to experience diverse clinical presentations unique to Tropical North Queensland and benefit from the wonderful lifestyle we enjoy in our part of the world.

NQRTH connects medical students, interns and junior doctors with a network of opportunities and resources. Facilitated by JCU, NQRTH partners with hospital and health services and training providers to create a connected career pathway beginning at the medical undergraduate level right through to fellowship.

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.

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