A final year medical student from the University of Notre Dame, who has been described by a supervising doctor as "exceptional", has received the Rural Doctors Association of Australia Medical Student of the Year Award for 2018.
Megan Telford received the award on Friday evening at a gala conference dinner of Rural Medicine Australia in Darwin.
The award is accompanied by a $2000 grant to put towards a rural health project.
RDAA President, Dr Adam Coltzau, said: "Megan is thoroughly deserving of this prestigious award. In multiple ways, she has demonstrated a strong commitment to rural practice, outstanding advocacy and leadership in rural health, and a strong sense of community - all stemming from her time growing up in Bellingen in northern NSW.
“Academically, Megan was the highest achieving student at her University’s Wagga Campus in 2017, and the highest achieving student in the clinical component of the Wagga Wagga Pre-Intern Day assessment for Wagga Base Hospital.
"Megan has been a Rural Australian Medical Undergraduate Scholarship scholar and is also part of the John Flynn Placement Program, demonstrating her longstanding commitment to rural health. This has seen her undertake placements in multiple regional and rural locations across NSW, including Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Manilla and Tamworth.
“Her RAMUS mentor, Dr Deidre Little in Bellingen, said she has been an exceptional medical student, not only in her gentle manner and interpersonal skills, but also in her academic depth and breadth of knowledge and in the innovative methods she has introduced to better track patient presentations and health summaries.
“We warmly congratulate Megan on receiving this award.”
Megan Telford said she was honoured to be nominated for the award, especially because it’s rural-based.
“That's firmly what I want to do with my future medical career,” she said.
“I originally started off studying Arts and Science in Sydney, but I realised that I didn’t want a career where I’d need to stay in the city forever - I think it dawned on me how special growing up in, and being part of a rural community, had been.
“I also started thinking hard about what I wanted out of a career – and for me, Medicine offered a perfect balance of being able to work closely with people, and also being able to work in a rural community while still having a very rewarding and successful career.
“A career as a Rural Generalist doctor appeals to me because it enables you to offer continuity of care to your community, is continuously challenging, and you have to know a little bit about everything!
“I am definitely considering becoming a rural GP Obstetrician. It really enables you to provide cradle to grave care – to be there at the start of life, there at the end of life, and all the way in between. It’s also important for rural families to have good obstetric care available close to home, rather than having to travel far away from their support networks to deliver their babies.
“My Kimberley placement was really exciting. It included a placement at Broome Hospital’s Emergency Department, the local Aboriginal Medical Service, and remote visits with the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“It was extremely valuable for me in getting a feel for more remote medical work and how you manage patient presentations and care in that type of setting. I’d love to be able to go back in the future if life allows.
“I’m also really enjoying undertaking my research into obstetric services in the Murrumbidgee region. I’m hopeful that it will contribute to a bigger picture of different models of obstetric care that are working in different locations across the region, what can be done to better support these models, and ultimately also help other regional areas to set up sustainable models of local obstetric care.
“Undertaking my medical training at Wagga Wagga has been wonderful. The training's excellent, the exposure to patient presentations and clinical work is substantial, and the local health professionals are very supportive, plus it's a great community and there's a lot you can get involved with.
“Even students who have never been out rural and initially have been a bit more hesitant have found that, once they come out here, they’ve had a really great experience.
“I think it’s important to get city-based students out to the bush to experience Rural Medicine, even if it's only for a short placement.
“While my parents have been huge role models to me because of their incredible work ethic, Dr Deidre Little is definitely one of my biggest clinical mentors and personal mentors. She has a huge reputation for patient-centred care in her rural practice - she's very thorough, always understands what the patient needs, her communication is excellent and she really cares for her patients. She’s someone who I really want to model my clinical practice on in the future.”