When making a difference really counts

Wanting to make a difference in the lives of children drew Flinders medical student Anna Elias to the profession of teaching, but working as a volunteer with sick children sparked within her a desire to do much more for them.

It was while volunteering almost full-time at Ronald McDonald House that Anna realised she harboured a deeper desire to help these children. It led to her enrolling in Medicine at Flinders University.

“Living overseas and unable to work in education, I began volunteering at the local children’s hospital and Ronald McDonald House. My husband was working long hours so I was volunteering almost full-time.  Seeing children in the hospital and then their families at Ronald McDonald House gave me insight into the unique challenges facing paediatric patients and their families,” Anna says.

Now President of the Flinders Medical Students’ Society, Anna recalls becoming a primary school teacher had initially answered a call she felt to contribute to the betterment of the lives of children.

“I had gone into teaching to make a difference in the lives of children and through this experience I realised that I could make a greater difference for children who need it the most by studying medicine,” Anna says.

Anna successfully applied for the Flinders Doctor of Medicine through its Graduate Entry program for mature-age students with a non-science background.

Her determination to make a change for the better in children’s lives sustained her through the trials of studying full-time and raising a young family.

“The transition back to study was challenging, particularly juggling childcare around an ever-changing university timetable,” Anna recalled.

“The biggest challenges I faced were the fast pace of the program and steep learning curve due to the assumed knowledge and my non-science background.  I also came to accept early on that I was not going to have to same amount of time to study as my colleagues so I would have to work hard to makes sure that my study time was high-yield.”

Among her memories are those of her children accompanying her to tutorials and lectures.

“I’ll fondly remember bringing my kids to lectures and tutorials and watching them grow up in the Medical School. My son learnt how to use a computer mouse in a PBL room and my daughter learnt to climb stairs in the lecture theatre,” she reminisced.

Even though her schedule is hectic, Anna still manages to squeeze in time for her role as President of the Flinders Medical Students’ Society.

The Society supports a diverse range of students at Flinders Medical School. As the only graduate-entry medical program in South Australia, its students come from a wide range of age groups and backgrounds – ranging from recent high-school leavers to those who have had former professional backgrounds in health, education, business and the arts.

Drawing on her deep-seated desire to help others, Anna has immersed herself in her study program and student life.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time at Flinders.  Getting involved early on with the Student Society allowed me to help shape the curriculum, assessment and structural changes happening within the Medical School,” she said.

“I have benefited from collaborative, collegial relationships with Faculty in a supportive environment.  I’ve been given the opportunity to experience rural medicine, presented at national conferences and been able to attend a patient safety roundtable in Sydney.   I also greatly value the option to undertake electives all over the world

“I have also enjoyed seeing Faculty members getting involved in student-run events like the trivia night or the World’s Greatest Shave, and those same staff cheering on students at graduation or celebrating with students at the graduation ball,” Anna said.

Anna says Flinders is an ideal place to study, with the new Hub facilities offering a helpful combination of social and study spaces.

“Those facilities have really improved my on-campus experience. Flinders has a perfect location close to the city and the beach. Adelaide is a great place to live with both big city amenities and proximity to world class beaches and wine country.

“Flinders is a fantastic choice for study medicine. It has an innovative curriculum, opportunity for flexibility in rotations, and diversity of clinical locations (city, suburban, rural, Northern Territory). The opportunity to pursue overseas electives is valuable both for international students and Australian students eager for a broader range of experiences.  The new advanced studies program has strengthened research opportunities and changing to an MD program has put Flinders medicine at the forefront of Australian medical education.”

Of her future, Anna is considering her options in a medical career having started out with a dream of becoming a paediatrician.

“I am now open to considering alternative specialties that still include working with the children such as ED and dermatology,” she said.

“My time with the Student Society has fuelled my passion for education and I hope to get involved with medical education. The field of education is ever-changing and I think how we train medical students and doctors is somewhat lagging behind best principles. I’d like to be involved in transforming medical education, not just for the good of training new doctors but for the safety of patients.

“Ultimately, I’m motivated to use the opportunities I have been presented with to help make a difference in the lives of others.

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