Remote placement in Nhulunbuy with Tom Sefton

Flinders University students Casey Welsh and Tom Sefton taking a break in Nhulunbuy
Flinders University students Casey Welsh and Tom Sefton taking a break in Nhulunbuy

What is it that makes a person undertake medical study? What is it that makes them come to one of Flinders University’s most remote medical placements on offer within Australia? We spent five minutes asking five random questions to gain some insight into what makes one of our current crop of medical students tick.

Recently arrived in East Arnhem Land from Adelaide, Tom Sefton provided some interesting answers which offered up a tiny glimpse of his journey so far.

What did you study/work in prior to starting your medicine degree?
I was a Commando Officer in the Australian Army and worked overseas quite a bit in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East.

What excites you about medicine in general?
What attracts me most is that every day is very, very different and you never know quite what is going to walk through the door, what is coming next. You are never really comfortable in medicine. You are always learning something or seeing something new. So it is half fear and half curiosity and a good dose of trepidation.

What travels have you taken and what exposure to other cultures have you had?
I lived in Japan for a year and I studied Japanese at University and I also studied Arabic. I have travelled throughout North East Asia and in the Middle East.  I have also travelled through Central America so I am fairly well travelled. I certainly know about a great deal of cultures other than my own.

If you could invite four people from the past to dinner, who would they be, and why would you invite them? What would you talk about?
I think I would invite Winston Churchill. He would probably be at the top of my list. One, he was a great boozer but two, I am sure he could tell a lot of great stories about what happened around his life and things during the first and second world wars. He was just a great party animal so why wouldn’t you invite him?
Other than Winston Churchill I haven’t really thought much past him so I don’t think we are going to get to four!

What do you think about the concept of providing good rural clinical experiences to attract more doctors to the bush?
So, I spent all of last year in the Parallel Rural Community Curriculum  (PRCC) in third year in Waikerie, in the Riverland Region of South Australia.  I had a very good General Practitioner (GP) Supervisor and coming here to Nhulunbuy again is good exposure, given the training positions are so hard to come by whether they are through The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). I think, offering good training will continue to drag doctors away from the tertiary hospitals and into more remote locations, if they know they can still further their career. So I believe it is a really important aspect to have solid clinical schools with very good registrar training. It will become more and more important in the future.

So an extra question, do you think Nhulunbuy has that capacity understanding your short time here?
It definitely has the capacity for GP Registrar training.  If you wanted additional training whether it is in Anaesthetics or ACRRM or General Surgery training, that would need a pretty significant investment made. From a GP Generalist to GP Specialist point of view there is probably enough capacity here but it has to be linked in with Clinical Schools. The most important thing is having great supervisors and great clinical educators to support people who are out here. We can’t just pull people out to remote locations and expect them to train themselves. They need a structure and infrastructure around them to help with their training and their mentorship.

Top End Health, Miwatj Health, Laynhapuy Health and FCD Health are combining and coordinating their efforts in the recruitment and training of GP Registrars enabling doctors to stay within East Arnhem Land and train for longer periods of time. As a part of these efforts to provide the structure and infrastructure that Tom refers to earlier, Flinders University facilitates the weekly learning within the Clinical Education Training Facility. Our medical students are also welcomed participants, offering a more diverse learning opportunity for them and combining much prized support from the clinicians.

Article submitted by Gemma Porteous – Nhulunbuy Campus Administrator.

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Flinders NT Medical Program (NTMP)