Mature age student now a Fellow in the NT

After graduating in the first cohort of the Flinders NT Medical Program, Dr Darren Jewell (MD ’14) also became the first graduate of the NT Program to be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

‘Originally there wasn’t the opportunity to study medicine in the NT, so I went on from school to complete a Bachelor of Business and then a career in IT,’ says Darren. ‘Twenty years later when I was financially stable and looking for a new challenge in life, I looked into mature age entry options into medicine.’

Darren completed four subjects in a postgraduate science certificate, enjoyed the experience and decided to apply for medicine.

In 2011 the Finders NT Medical Program opened and Darren joined the graduate entry program. He later became one of the first cohort of eight students to graduate from the program in 2014.

The Northern Territory Medical program has a focus on preparing students to work effectively in remote settings and has sites outside Darwin, including Nhulunbuy, Alice Springs, Katherine and Tennant Creek. Students spend much of their third and fourth years of study in these community settings. Darren, with three other students, spent time at a remote hospital in Nhulunbuy.

‘The remoteness of the NT and small populations means that trainee doctors probably have a lot more opportunity here, exposure to specialities, fewer hierarchies than in the big city hospitals. It’s a nice level playing field.’ He says a highlight of this time was a visit to a remote East Arnhem Land community where he went out spear fishing with the men.

During his intern year in Royal Darwin Hospital, Darren enjoyed the variety and unpredictability of emergency medicine, but later opted for the general practice pathway and completed his term as a GP registrar in 2019 to become a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. He now works three days a week at Territory Medical’s city clinic and one day a week with a private cardiology team.

‘Lots of opportunities pop up, you can pretty much go where you are interested,’ says Darren, who has GP colleagues that assist visiting specialists in allergy medicine, obstetrics, and plastic surgery.

‘GP work is not easy – some people think it is but you never really know what’s coming through the door.

‘After doing a lot of ward work in teams as an intern and resident medical officer, when you move into a general practice they shut the door and it’s just you and the patient. Of course there is still back-up, but you become pretty autonomous.

‘In the Territory we are quite remote. You realise that back-up specialist support is thousands of kilometres and a three hour flight away.’

Darren waited for over 20 years to fulfil a school boy dream to study medicine, but he says it was worth it.

‘Mature age students bring life experience from their previous careers, which I believe is extremely helpful in studying and working in medicine. I found no disadvantages being a mature age student moving into a medical career and I would recommend it to anyone contemplating a change.’

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