JCU medical school graduate: From Detroit to the tropics and the outback

22 July 2020

JCU medical school graduate Carolyn came from Detroit to north Queensland to study medicine at James Cook University, and the experience has transformed not only her career but also her life purpose.

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Carolyn is proud to be a JCU medicine grad (Photo: JCU)

While her initial plan was to study medicine in the US after completing her undergraduate studies as a pre-med student, she wasn’t sure if being a doctor in the US would fulfill her desire to help those most in need.

“In the US, the people who really need treatment often can’t afford it, so it made me think maybe it was better to study public health,” said Carolyn.

However, not quite ready to give up completely on the idea of studying medicine, Carolyn began searching for medical schools that offered an emphasis on public health and also tropical medicine. And that eventually led her to JCU’s medical school and its unique focus on rural, remote and tropical medicine.

“The idea of doing remote medicine in the tropics really appealed to me. I did some study-broad trips to Ghana and Belize as an undergrad student and thought that I would love to be a doctor who goes to these types of places.”

Soon after starting her medical degree at JCU, Carolyn had an a-ha moment when she found the career path she had been looking for, as a rural generalist doctor trained to work in under-resourced communities.

“From first year we are exposed to the concept of Rural Generalism which was super appealing to me as it had everything I was interested in. I finally found a career where you could specialize in servicing rural and remote communities, both in Australia and globally, including in the tropics.”

The prospect of working in mostly regional or remote communities also strongly appealed to her personality. “To be a rural generalist, you have to have a big sense of adventure. It’s like being in the Wild West where anything can walk through your door and you have to manage it.”

JCU’s emphasis on providing students with a variety of hands-on practical experiences, in locations throughout regional Queensland, was another factor that attracted Carolyn to study at JCU.

“The hands-on experiences you get in rural places are unlike anything you’ll get in your other placements,” she said. “They are really keen to welcome you as a student into the medical team and you get to do so much more because they really need the extra hands. They wanted to teach me more skills so that I could be more useful to them. It was a win-win situation.”

Carolyn’s interest in rural and remote medicine was also accelerated by joining JCU’s rural student health club, as part of the Australia-wide National Rural Health Student Network. Being part of this network offers club members a chance to participate in rural immersion experiences throughout Australia.

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Carolyn boarding the RFDS plane (Photo: JCU)

“Students from across all the health disciplines are involved in the club activities and I even met my future husband there! The reality is that one day we are all going to be working together and you get exposure to this early on as a student at JCU.”

Other student clubs that Carolyn was involved with included JCU’s rural health club RHINO (Rural Health in the Northern Outback) also a JCU branch of Doctors for Environment Australia which she actually started.

“I found that JCU was really supportive of my interests. If there was a club that needed to be supported, they would help. I got so many opportunities and so much exposure by being active in these clubs, just because I put myself out there and was interested in stuff.”

Carolyn’s advice to other international students considering studying medicine at JCU is to give everything a go and to get out of your comfort zone as much as possible.

“If you want to do something different or out of the ordinary, JCU will help you with it. They will give you exposure to all these different fields and interests that you might not even be aware of yet.”

Also equally important is to take the time to explore what North Queensland has to offer. “There’s so much to explore in north Queensland. I love to go hiking and camping and finding waterfalls. It’s a tropical paradise over here which has been amazing, especially coming from Detroit where it snows half the year.”

“Studying medicine at JCU has done wonders for me, for my future career and even for finding my partner and a new home in Australia.”

*Carolyn applied to study medicine at JCU via OzTREKK and undertook the medicine entry interview in Canada.

About the JCU Medical Program

JCU medical school offers an undergraduate-entry medical program that specializes in rural, remote and indigenous medicine and is located in north Queensland, Australia. Rather than having to earn a bachelor degree first, undergraduate-entry medical programs allow students to enter directly from high school. If you have completed high school studies or would like to apply to a medical school in Australia without using your MCAT score, you may wish to learn more about undergraduate-entry medical programs offered by Australian universities.

Program: Bachelor of Medicine Bachelor of Surgery
Location: Townsville, Queensland
Next available intake: February 2021
Duration: 6 years
Application deadline: While applications for the 2021 intake close August 28, 2020, you are encouraged to apply as early as possible.


Would you like to learn more about studying medicine at James Cook University? Contact OzTREKK’s Medicine Admissions Officer at medicine@oztrekk.com for more information.