UQ Medicine graduate shares 9 things he wishes he'd been told as a med student
Hailing from Canada, Shaun completed his medical degree at UQ before undertaking his fellowship at the University of Toronto and his residency with University of Calgary. He currently works full time as a Queensland Health registrar within intensive care and in his spare time he works for House Call Doctor— a 100% bulk-billed, after-hours, home GP service operating in Queensland. If you’d like to hear firsthand from a Canadian who is now practicing medicine in Australia, check out Shaun’s advice!
1. Study medicine for the right reasons.
Medicine is a highly rewarding career that has many opportunities in various sub-specialty fields. However it is a long road, requires intensive study, and at times can seem impossible. It is not a decision to be made lightly, and there are times I wish I could fix that leaky pipe in my kitchen. I chose medicine, because it not only helps people, but I enjoy thinking on my feet and problem solving. Reflecting a bit more, it has also developed my personal ethics and communication skills.
2. For international medicine students, you can’t beat UQ for education and lifestyle.
UQ is constantly improving their medicine course which I feel is important when choosing a university and medical school. When I was applying they were very approachable and efficient throughout the application process. The case-based learning style made me nervous, but I think it is the best way to learn and study medicine. Brisbane is also an amazing city, it has the best climate of all Australian cities (none of this “four seasons in one day” stuff). Plus the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast are about an hour away! Perfect study and lifestyle balance.
3. Studying internationally is incredible, but it can be difficult when you return home.
I have spoken to numerous potential Canadian medical school candidates over the years, and my advice is the same. Studying medicine at UQ was a life-changing event for me, and provided me unique opportunities in an amazing country. I won’t lie—you will find it challenging being away from home, and to be honest, getting back into the Canadian system is difficult. UQ does facilitate opportunities to make this process easier, but it is still a challenge. Be prepared to finish internship training in Australia before considering the road back or please at least obtain and maintain general registration with AHPRA.
4. There are pros and cons to working in different health systems, so consider what’s important to you.
I can only speak in relation to the Canadian and Australian healthcare systems, but in my honest experience you get paid more, will have better shifts and rosters, and overall better work-life balance in Australia. On the other hand, internship training is structured better in Canada: training is slightly shorter and there are no primary exams, but the programs are very difficult to get accepted into.
5. In medicine, you can have a “typical routine” but you’ll never have a “typical day.”
I currently work for Queensland Health and for House Call Doctor when I have extra time in the evenings, usually on nights off, or weekends. Being a home GP after-hours is very flexible and works well with my schedule. Working with House Call Doctor means I get to visit a wide variety of patients who need urgent after-hours care, treating everything from acute cold and flus to more serious conditions, such as gastro, home accidents or chronic illness. You really never know what kind of patients you’ll treat!
6. Sometimes taking the road less travelled will put you on the right path.
I always wanted to work in primary care, but it was quite difficult to get any experience and determine if it suited me. House Call Doctor has given me this experience but it’s also shown me another side to medical practice. I honestly feel after-hours care is becoming its own sub-specialty of medicine. I enjoy it because it allows me to have a simple chat with patients, to see children or speak with a young mum. It is very rewarding, and not something I could have experienced working in the adult system alone.
7. As a student, it’s easy to get run down from all that studying (and perhaps socialising). When you do get sick there are probably more healthcare options available to you than you think.
House Call Doctor offers 100% bulk-billed home GP visits to anyone with a Medicare or DVA (Department of Veteran’s Affair) Card. Having a GP visit your home can be particularly useful in acute medical situations that don’t warrant an emergency department response, but can’t wait until normal clinic hours. House Call Doctor visits a wide cross-section of patients, including students living in shared accommodation. International students can also take advantage of the after-hours medical care, rebated if they travelling with BUPA, NIB, Allianz or Medibank insurance. For more information you can visit www.housecalldoctor.com.au, or you can phone the after-hours line on 13 55 66 to book an appointment.
8. Support networks and technology are invaluable for international students.
Having a strong family and supportive Australian peer group is extremely important throughout your medical degree. At the same time, don’t underestimate the impact of technology. Skype, FaceTime, and WhatsApp will ensure you can easily stay in touch with loved ones back home.
9. Your medical degree can take you anywhere and you’re likely to end up somewhere completely different to where you thought you would.
I have worked in numerous medical fields, and I have definitely not taken a straight path. Initially I was very keen on critical care (ICU), but when I worked in Haiti post-earthquake and again in Africa I got a better understanding of health and the need for public health medicine and primary care. I have since completed Canadian postgraduate training in public health medicine, and am now working towards translating my qualification here in Australia. I also have a public health interest in illicit substance abuse and drug use patterns and am completing a fellowship in toxicology. I tell everyone, especially medical students, to never discount the idea of being a GP; I’m still considering it, if I get time.
About the UQ Medical School Program
The UQ Medical School conducts a four-year, graduate-entry medical program, the Doctor of Medicine (MD). The School of Medicine is a leading provider of medical education and research in Australia, and with the country’s largest medical degree program, they are the major single contributor to Queensland’s junior medical workforce.
Program: Doctor of Medicine (MD)
Location: Brisbane, Queensland
Semester intake: January
Duration: 4 years
Application deadline: Applications are assessed on a rolling admissions (first come, first served) basis. It is recommended that applicants apply as early as possible to increase their chances of timely assessment. This program can fill quickly!