A unique element of Flinders University MD is that we have a number of cohorts of students and an extensive range of academics, clinicians and partners who contribute to medical education, research and a medical workforce pipeline across the breadth of the Australian central corridor. This includes students and staff of the Bachelor of Clinical Science, the MD, the MD Rural Stream, and the MD in the Northern Territory: the Northern Territory Medical Program (NTMP).
The Rural Clinical Schools are an important feature of Flinders MD. This year Mt Gambier is celebrating a 20 year anniversary and the NT Clinical School is celebrating 25 years. These are important milestones and a reflection of the College of Medicine and Public Health’s commitment to the health and wellbeing of rural and remote Australia as well as graduating doctors who are fit-for-practice in diverse settings. In the Northern Territory CMPH has more than 70 staff on the ground, and many of our rural and metropolitan MD staff and partners also contribute expertise to the NTMP. The NTMP would not be the success that it is without this contribution – and it is a tremendous success. In 2021 Flinders celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the NTMP, including our partnership with CDU that is responsible for the undergraduate Bachelor of Clinical Science pathway into the MD in the Northern Territory. These successes include:
- Graduation of over 150 NTMP students
- Graduation of 15 Indigenous doctors, 10% of NTMP graduates are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students
- 92% of students in the program have been from the Northern Territory
- 30 Flinders University students from SA undertake a year-long placement in the NT each year
- 52% of the South Australian students undertaking long term placement in the NT return to take up junior doctor positions
- 76% of students who spent a year in Darwin, 80% of students who spent a year in Alice Springs, and 92% of students who spent a year in Katherine are still working in the NT
- 54% of NTMP graduates remain in the Northern Territory beyond their return of service
- 30-40% of GP Registrar trainees in the NT are NTMP graduates
These are impressive results by national standards and first are at odds with the assertions that our partner, CDU, has made in a number of presentations, communications and the recent proposal to establish a medical program in the NT commencing in 2023. This proposal contained many inaccuracies about the NTMP and its outcomes.
Given the long and successful partnership that we have had with CDU, it has been disappointing to see the approach being taken by CDU, and it is important to correct any false assertions as well as acknowledge the quality of the NTMP graduates and their commitment to the NT medical workforce and the wider community in which they live. Flinders has made repeated offers to build on our current partnership and work with CDU to support their plans to establish a CDU-led medical program. There is no disputing that the Northern Territory needs more local and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander doctors. While we stand ready to assist CDU to develop a future-focussed expansion plan, we will also continue to deliver the NTMP as a parallel program for the foreseeable future. We consider this to be essential in order to ensure that there is no disruption to the medical workforce pipeline in the Territory.
Looking forward, the MD in all its forms, including the NTMP, will continue to focus on further increases in local and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and graduates, engagement with local clinicians and educators across South Australia and the NT, working from a strong research-education nexus supported by significant investment in infrastructure and solid, mature partnerships. The NTMP will continue to build on its success to deliver positive and lasting benefits for all Territorians.
Professor Robyn Aitken
Dean, Rural and Remote Health
College of Medicine and Public Health