Get to know your College: Crystal Larwood, MD student

The College has recently commenced a pilot program to offer final year Flinders University medical students a 5-week rotation elective at Calvary North Adelaide Hospital. The four inaugural students were welcomed into Medical Oncology, ICU, Surgery and Obstetrics & Gynaecology and were supervised by Prof Nick Rieger, Dr Anthony Ciccocioppo, Dr David Rodda, Dr Tony Michele, Dr Jeff Hillen and Dr Matt Hooper. The pilot program would not have been possible without the hard work of A/Prof Sarah Thompson (Flinders University), Linnea Boileau (Work Integrated Learning Coordinator, Flinders University), Dr Jayanthi Jayakaran (Dean of People & Resources) and the support of Su White (Director of Clinical Services, Calvary North Adelaide), Steve Farrall (General Manager, Calvary North Adelaide), and Clinical Placement Facilitator, Linda Bozo.

This week we spoke to Crystal Larwood about her experience, and also learnt about what led her to study Medicine at Flinders. 

What led you to Medicine?  I spent a few years of my childhood in Peru where I was exposed to health differentials and inequality. There were countless opportunities to give back to an underserved community who drastically needed the basics of life such as housing, clean water, food and medical aid. This sparked an interest at a young age to pursue a career where I could make a small dent in giving back to some of these communities.

Throughout high school I continued to warm to the idea of healthcare and enjoyed getting involved in surf lifesaving first aid competitions and basic first aid tasks. I was also interested in physiology and how things worked in our complicated bodies. I always liked being able to be helpful when people needed first aid and loved the human interaction where you could support somebody when they were in a position of need. I was fascinated by the problem solving aspect of medicine where I could amalgamate facts and build a picture to then come up with a conclusion and solution.

I graduated high school certain that medicine was where I wanted to work.

Why did you choose Flinders? I am originally from Adelaide and after several sojourns overseas my family always settled back here. I was interested in studying medicine as my first priority but as an added bonus I was hopeful to study in Adelaide so that I could be close to my family and friends. I was over the moon when I was offered a position in the Bachelor of Clinical Science/Doctor of Medicine program at Flinders.

What’s a highlight of your student life at Flinders? Placement is absolutely the highlight of my student life at Flinders. I am a hands-on learner and have loved the ability to learn on the job whilst talking and interacting with patients. I have also cherished the chance to make lifelong friends through studying medicine. I truly believe the people I have met during medicine will be friends throughout my whole life. Two of my friends I met in the course were bridesmaids in my wedding.

What have been some of the highlights of the pilot program at Calvary? I had the most amazing time on placement at Calvary North Adelaide. I was exposed to various areas of medicine such as obstetrics, gynaecology, paediatrics, general surgery, urology and endocrinology. I was also exposed to various highly proficient and skilled staff that dedicated time to teach me knowledge, skills and their professional nuances that have taken years to master. I was extremely fortunate to have what seemed like limitless access to years of experience to directly learn from incredibly talented staff. I also had exposure to many births; both caesarean and vaginal, where I was able to scrub in for caesareans and tandem deliver vaginal births. It was eye opening and experiences I will never forget. I had multiple days of one-on-one exposure to my supervisor, Dr Jeffrey Hillen, who dedicated time to teach me his professional skills and knowledge that he has developed over his career. I learnt from his refined skills that he has fine-tuned to deliver seamless patient care at a highly proficient level. This was by far a highlight of my time at Calvary. I was also able to present to executive staff, consultants and other valued staff at the conclusion of the pilot program about a case presentation that I had been involved with on my placement. I felt valued throughout my placement, which was demonstrated by the time and dedication staff willingly gave me to facilitate my learning and broaden my exposure of clinical scenarios.

Have you had other placement experiences whilst at Flinders? I was on placement for all of 2020 rotating through surgery, psychiatry, general medicine and specialty medicine. I have a full year of placement ahead of me in 2021 for my final year of medical school. I have been lucky enough to learn under some incredible teachers throughout these rotations and have felt like I have been able to integrate into a team and learn methods that enable me to be helpful whilst enhancing my learning and patient care.

What area of medicine do you see yourself practicing in? I am interested in a career in rural GP with an obstetrics focus. I absolutely loved my time on O&G at Calvary North Adelaide and would love to integrate obstetrics as a focus in my career. I also love the idea of a hands-on workplace in the country where I can integrate into a community.

How did the pandemic prepare you for your future professional career? I was on placement throughout 2020 which was insightful to see first-hand how a hospital system responds to a global pandemic. This was priceless learning that has certainly better equipped myself for my future career. I saw the importance of prioritising certain health concerns that were more time critical and how a hospital system can integrate new practises into their system quickly and efficiently to protect patients, staff and visitors. Effective communication was critical to succeed and prioritise safety. I also experienced how a hospital system can begin to reopen services once a threat had been managed.

Tell us something about yourself that others may not know: I am a firm believer in the importance of a balanced lifestyle which can sometimes be tricky with the demands of medicine. I think it is necessary to get involved in activities to stay active and creative. I love doing aerial silks (the pieces of material that fall from the ceiling that you would have seen if you have been to a circus) or other genres of dancing to stay connected to my pre-medicine life.

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