Gunnedah girl Sarah Clark is on a mission to learn everything she needs to know to provide the "best health care” to rural communities.
The 20-year-old medical student spent two years at the University of NSW in Sydney and recently moved to Wagga Wagga to attend the university’s Rural Clinical School. She starts on February 27 and will live on campus at Charles Sturt University.
“I love college life; there’s something about it,” Sarah said.
“I contacted some of the colleges at CSU and said, ‘I know I’m not a student but would you let me stay there?’ ”
Sarah is undertaking a six-year undergraduate medicine degree and is looking forward to spending three full days in Wagga Wagga Rural Referral Hospital every week.
“From what I have heard from other students it’s a lot of clinical experience, going into hospital, talking to patients with doctors and interns beside you,” she said.
“It should be really good. I think it will boost my confidence in communicating with patients. Hands-on experience for a lot of people helps you learn better and you can apply it to a clinical situation.”
The former Gunnedah High School and St Mary’s College student was a recipient of the Gunnedah Community Scholarship Fund in 2015 and 2016. This month she has applied for the Country Women’s Association’s Namoi Group medical grant.
“I went into medicine wanting to do psychiatry but over the first two years I was kind of just waiting to really enjoy something and that didn’t really happen because I enjoyed it all,” she said.
“The main reason that I got into medicine was a lot to do with personal contact. I really enjoy listening to people and hearing their stories.”
Sarah said it was fairly common for people who grew up in rural areas to return to them, however a particular incident in 2015 cemented her resolve.
“In first year, while I was in Sydney, I sustained a stress fracture through 50 per cent of the neck of my left femur (so the thigh bone, half-broken up near my hip), and the speed of my diagnosis and treatment plan was far quicker than it would've been in the country,” she said.
Within a week, Sarah said she had seen her GP who referred her to a sport physician who did x-rays, then ordered an MRI and bone scans which confirmed a stress fracture and revealed that she had “weak bones for someone my age and gender”. After the scans, she went to an endocrinologist to get blood tests to see if her hormones were playing a part in causing weakness in her bones.
“If that had happened while I was in Gunnedah, I wouldn't have figured that all out for a long time because of travelling for an MRI and to see an endocrinologist, but in Sydney the furthest I had to go for all of this was about a 20 minute walk,” Sarah said.
“So I think that personal experience made me realised how disadvantaged rural people are in terms of the health care they have access to. That and the fact that growing up in a rural community gave me so much of who I am, makes me driven to provide the best health care I can to these people.”