Get to know your College: Jesse Walsh, 3rd year MD student

In the last 72 hours I’ve gotten to be first assist in 2 surgeries, work up a MI, 2 code strokes, relocated a shoulder and evacuation of a burns patient and assess my own patients. Today, a baby. God I love rural placement. 

We were delighted to see a Twitter post from Jesse about her positive rural placement experiences in the Riverland, so caught up with her for a quick chat about what led her to medicine, some of the highlights of her student life, and where she hopes her future medical career will take her. 

What led you to Medicine? It’s always been my plan A to do Medicine; there never was a plan B. To be honest I’m not completely sure what the catalyst was! What I am sure of though is that in a year book I have from Year 6 there was a question “What do you want to be famous for?” and 12 year old me wrote “Saving someone’s life when no one else could”. It’s pretty corny … but that was it.

Why did you choose Flinders? I was doing a rural medical placement in Phitsanulok, Thailand with a program called Gap Medic which aimed to give pre-med students some exposure to Medicine outside their own countries. I met a student there who was in the process of applying to Flinders for the following year. After looking into the program, Flinders really appealed to me for three main reasons:
1) its reputation with the medical community

2) its rural placement program: coming from a metro background, I am so grateful to be placed rurally for a year. I don’t pretend to know what its like to live out here or rurally in generally, nor do I want to represent all rural students and their opinion. I’m just here for the ride and taking in all the opportunities as they present themselves.

3) the Flinders’ campuses in Alice Springs and Darwin (where I intend to complete my cores at next year). It’s unique to have a medical school that provides the opportunity to experience so much diversity here in our own country!

What’s a highlight of your student life at Flinders? The year-long rural placement program this year has been the highlight of my student experience at Flinders. You’re thrown into the deep end from day one, yet in the most supportive environment. I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity to come out to the Riverland. Another highlight is definitely my cohort (graduating in 2022). It’s filled with a diverse range of people, from all over the world and all with different prior working backgrounds. It creates a really great mix of people who each bring unique things to medicine. If it wasn’t for my cohort and the friends I’ve made, I don’t know what type of experience I would have had.

What have been some of the highlights of your rural placement experiences? There have been so many already. I could go on ad nauseam, but here are a few:

1) We had just had a study day at Renmark doing simulations on Primary Surveys: learning how to assess a patient when they arrive to you. That evening, we were all heading to dinner and were first on scene in a six car pile-up. Although we didn’t do much, we were able to make basic assessments on a few of the patients and liaise with the ambulance on the phone before they arrived. What is amazing about our program is that we run these simulations and I feel the skills I learn are put into place straight away. We get the opportunity to work on things we are not confident with yet in an environment where there are no stupid questions and everyone just wants you to succeed.

2) Babies! I’ve been lucky enough to have been present and caught two babies and scrubbed in for a caesarean section; all only because of the cooperation of the mothers who let us be part of their experience.

3) Emergency theatre. I was in ED assessing a patient’s hernia with the on-call surgeon and anaesthetist and it was deemed more risky to wait to fly the patient to Adelaide, so we had to operate right then. The surgeon let me scrub in first assist and it was just us, another registrar, scrub nurse and anaesthetist. What was more humbling was seeing the patient a few days later, and him and his wife saying, “You were the light on a dark day” (corny again), but the highlight to me really is not getting to do the surgery, but knowing that you made someone and their loved one feel safe and looked after in a very scary situation. I sometimes think not enough emphasis is put on how we interact with patients, because to me some of the most important skills you need to have are empathy and respect.

4) My clinic at Barmera. I have been welcomed with opened arms by everyone from the doctors, the nurses and the admin staff. I never feel alone and there is always someone who can chat things out with me. A special shout out to the doctors who are taking the time to teach me and help me grow. I already feel that in the short amount of time I’ve been there that I’ve learnt so much.

5) The surgeons: we get scheduled theatre sessions with visiting surgeons and general surgeons who run their lists during the week. A highlight was scrubbing in with Dr James Aspinall, a Urologist from Adelaide. Again, doing the surgeries was amazing, but his dedication and enthusiasm for teaching gives me that rush; I think I’m an addict to amazing learning experiences. It motivates me to study and be the best I can (corny again, but it’s true).

How did the pandemic prepare you for your future professional career? I think the pandemic has really emphasised the importance of putting in that effort with friends and family. Very quickly things can get scary and the unknown is almost unsurmountable. But knowing how to recognise those feelings and knowing where to go for help is crucial. I think it’s a skill that is important in medicine as it is at times high pressure, stressful and exhausting.

What area of medicine do you see yourself practicing in? At the moment I’m still unsure. I’ve always been interested in Medical Oncology as the science of cancer interests me (my undergraduate science degree was a major in Immunology and Physiology). I worked in an Oncology centre back in Melbourne and many of my family members and close friends have personally gone through their own cancer journey. Medical oncology has that balance of science and continuity of care, which to me is important in whatever speciality I choose to pursue.

BUT I am loving the babies, so perhaps Obstetrics, but that is a very long road. Or perhaps I’ll go for being a Rural Generalist with a sub speciality in Obstetrics and get the best of all worlds! At the moment I am keeping my options open and focussing on graduating.

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