The University of Melbourne’s rural pathway medical school program at Shepparton is set to welcome its first intake next year, taking students a step closer to becoming rural doctors and helping to address Australia’s longstanding rural doctor shortage.

Shepparton offers one of five rural-based medical school programs established under the Federal Government’s Murray-Darling Medical Schools Network.

The Network is a key initiative in the Government’s commitment to tackle the rural doctor shortage and improve the distribution of the medical workforce through the establishment of rurally based medical school programs.

Up to half of the 30 students who will study medicine at Shepparton have been based at Bendigo and Albury-Wodonga, where they have just completed the Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) degree from La Trobe University.

This arrangement provides a pathway into the four-year graduate entry Doctor of Medicine offered by the University of Melbourne in Shepparton for regional students intending to practise medicine in a regional location.

The medical program was announced in the Federal Government’s 2018-2019 Budget and involves a unique collaboration between the two universities which have a long and respected track record in medical, health and rural education.

This first Shepparton intake will further benefit from a $6.5 million upgrade to the Shepparton campus, including new student accommodation and expanded teaching spaces, expected to be completed in early 2022.

Federal Member for Nicholls, Damian Drum, congratulated the students on their graduation from La Trobe, and commended both the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University on their successful collaboration.

Today is a great day for the Goulburn Valley as the first cohort in this ground-breaking end-to-end regional medical program mark a major milestone in their quest to become a doctor,” Mr Drum said.

“I congratulate all those who graduated today and wish them the best of luck for the remainder of their studies.

“I’m proud the Federal Government, in conjunction with La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne, created this medical program as part of an effort to alleviate the doctor shortage in regional and rural Australia.

“I am confident that a high proportion of graduating students will choose to stay in the Goulburn Valley for their medical careers, benefitting the region for years and decades to come.”

Minister for Regional Health, David Gillespie, said the Murray-Darling Medical School Network would be a game‑changer in bridging the city-country divide.

“The Network’s aim is to address rural doctor shortages, improve the future distribution of the medical workforce and build on the Government’s existing investment in rural undergraduate training through the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program,” Dr Gillespie said.

“It will maximise opportunities to support school leavers and graduate-entry students with a rural background, and to attract those with an interest, intention and aptitude for practising in rural and regional areas once qualified.

“As such, it will help to ‘flip’ the current model of medical training with the majority of training to be regionally based and rotations to metropolitan areas for specialist immersions kept to a minimum.

“The new end-to-end rural medical program is in strong demand from regional and rural students because it means students are able to study closer to home.

“A major positive impact of the program is that students in regional schools now see medicine as a possible career path, and this is lifting enthusiasm and performance in schools.”

The Murray-Darling Medical School Network also enables communities in the region to benefit from the creation of local jobs through infrastructure projects and the increased university presence.

The Network includes University of NSW (Wagga Wagga), University of Sydney (Dubbo), Charles Sturt University in partnership with Western Sydney University (Orange), Monash University (Bendigo, Mildura), and University of Melbourne (Shepparton).

In 2022, all five Network medical schools will be operational, with 145 students commencing their studies, adding to the 80 who started in 2021. La Trobe University will welcome another 15 students to its pathway Biomedical Science (Medical) degree.

ENDS

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