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Student doctor loved city, cheeseslaw

Saturday, 16th January, 2010

* Student doctor Chris Cameron is sorry to be saying goodbye to Broken Hill. * Student doctor Chris Cameron is sorry to be saying goodbye to Broken Hill.

Even though he's heading off for the last time, student doctor Chris Cameron won't forget his time in Broken Hill.

Mr Cameron has spent two weeks a year for the last four years in Broken Hill as part of the Australia College of Rural and Remote Medicine's John Flynn Scholarship program.

The program aims to expose medical students to rural medicine and, just as importantly, regional areas and communities. The scheme draws on evidence that students who learn in the bush are more likely to return.

Mr Cameron, who lives in Brisbane and is embarking on his last year of study, will finish his fourth and final visit today. He'll miss the place. "You can't see the stars in the city, but you can see them out here. And I will miss the toasted chicken and cheeseslaw sandwiches from the canteen," he said.

"There's such a friendliness here. Everyone has made me feel really welcome. It's a really harsh desert environment and in the middle of that you have all these people coming together and getting along.

"You stand on the corner for one minute and people come up and ask if you're lost. Where else in Australia would you find that?."I've already been telling people how great it is here and that they should come.

There's a medical student here now and I told him he should visit." The main focus of Chris' visits, of course, has been to learn how things operate at the Broken Hill Base Hospital.

"My passion for rural medicine has been nurtured even further through the time I've spent there. It's been a harrowing experience watching my clinical skills develop over this period of time as I'm only in Broken Hill for two weeks each year," he said.

"The four years has allowed friendships and professional contacts to be made with rural Australia. It is only the beginning of my relationship with rural Australia and Broken Hill. "The hospital has been really helpful. Everyone there has been massively supportive. It's a more relaxed atmosphere out here. It's very collaborative. "One of my interests is in Indigenous health and Broken Hill has exposed me to its complexities.

"There's also more patient contact out here. There are less doctors so you're not fighting for patients. It gives me a broader range of experience. "The University Department of Rural Health is doing an important job in training a health care workforce that's focused on providing for rural people. They do such a good job and I have such admiration for them." Mr Cameron has been discussing the prospect of returning with the local mentor, Dr Steve Flecknoe-Brown.

"Hopefully in the future that there will be registrar training places available for people like myself to do advanced training in the country," he said. "It's important those positions are available. They lead to continuity of care as well as the prevention of deskilling of hospital staff and allows for the learning of medicine, incorporating the nuances of working in a remote area."

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