One hundred future doctors will be training in the Darling Downs and South West regions within three years – set to ramp up to 120 each year by 2026 – in a partnership between universities and health services.
The University of Queensland and University of Southern Queensland (USQ), along with Darling Downs Health (DDH) and South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS), have signed a memorandum of understanding to create a continuous medical education pathway.
The program unveiled today (Monday 6 December) will allow university students to complete all of their undergraduate and postgraduate studies and practical training in the region.
UQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry AO said the partnership would open the door for future doctors and the health of regional communities.
“This will improve accessibility for our regional, rural and remote students and allow them to study, train and practice closer to home and in their community,” Professor Terry said.
“At the moment, many talented medical students are completing only a portion of their medical studies in Toowoomba, and we are thrilled to be able to offer the entire four-year UQ Doctor of Medicine (MD) program under this partnership.”
The ‘Medical Pathway’ concept is now seen as the future blueprint to improving health outcomes in regional, rural and remote Queensland, available for postgraduate students from 2024.
The establishment of the Darling Downs – South West Medical Pathway follows the success of a similar pathway that was established in 2019 when UQ partnered with CQUniversity, and Central Queensland and Wide Bay Hospital and Health Services.
Darling Downs Health Board Chair Mr Mike Horan AM said with more patients coming through the doors, a pathway for students to experience rural health was a key priority.
“Across the Darling Downs and South Burnett everything we do comes back to our purpose of providing high-quality care as close as possible to home, this now includes training our own doctors and improving the sustainability of our workforce,” Mr Horan said.
“The students will be learning from some of the best rural medical practitioners in Australia and they’ll experience aspects of healthcare that you won’t get in the metropolitan areas.”
USQ Vice-Chancellor Professor Geraldine Mackenzie said the collaboration would help future-proof the health workforce for years to come.
“In the fullness of time, the pathway will include the opportunity for high school students to apply for provisional entry to the UQ MD and complete their undergraduate degree with the University of Southern Queensland,” Professor Mackenzie said.
“For many students, having the support of their family, friends, and the community they grew up in will help their academic success towards becoming a doctor.”
South West Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Dr Anthony Brown said that the Darling Downs and South West regions continued to work hard to recruit and retain an appropriate trained medical workforce, particularly rural generalists and general practitioners.
“We know that doctors who undertake their postgraduate and vocational training in the rural and remote context are more likely to practice rural and remote medicine after their fellowship and are more able to answer the needs of the communities they serve,” Dr Brown said.
“As part of the partnership, we will provide student placements and internships in our smaller regional and rural hospitals, as well as our multipurpose health services across the South West regions.”
The full UQ Doctor of Medicine (MD) program will begin in the region partially from 2024 and in full from 2026.