On a fast track to
rural medicine

Mary has wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember, and credits the staff from the Rural Clinical School for helping her pursue her dreams.

For 17 years, Mary Loch had been waking up to cackling kookaburras. She had perfected the art of shooing kangaroos from the back paddock. Her battle scars tell tales of weekends spent mountain biking through the bush surrounding her home in Rockhampton.

Today, the biomedical sciences student is halfway through her first year at UQ. Mary is one of 38 rural students who gained provisional entry into the Doctor of Medicine (MD) - so a good performance in her undergraduate degree will secure her a spot in the MD class of 2020.

While Mary has well and truly settled into life at St Lucia, the idea of joining UQ seemed unlikely to her in January when QTAC released their round of offers.

“I had already received an offer to study medicine at James Cook University,” Mary recalls.

“So when the QTAC offers came out, I thought that’ll be it, and I didn’t even look at it. But Mum said I should just check it.”

When Mary eventually logged on to check her QTAC account, she saw an offer to study with UQ – her dream pathway to medicine.

“We were jumping around, hugging each other and screaming with joy! I honestly didn’t think I was going to get in because it’s just so hard. I rang Dad, who was in a meeting, so I said ‘Hold the meeting – I got into medicine!’ and he yelled ‘What?!’

"Words can’t describe how happy we all were. All the hard work had paid off. I actually printed out the offer letter and laminated it!”

While Mary had wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember, it was her interactions with staff from the Rural Clinical School (RCS) in Rockhampton that provided the inspiration and motivation to pursue her dreams.

“The staff genuinely wanted to help me. They went out of their way to give me the information I needed. I must have visited them a dozen times! Whether it was the nitty gritty admissions information, tips for the UMAT or inviting me to their events to experience life as a doctor, they were always there. I learnt so much from the RCS team, and it really took the pressure off while I was getting through year 12.”

Head of the Rural Clinical School, Professor Sarah Strasser, says she is thrilled to hear that the RCS had such a profound role in shaping Mary’s future.

“Our key purpose is to provide a high quality medical education in a rural setting – with a view to longer term recruitment and retention of a well-trained rural medical workforce.”

Professor Sarah Strasser

“But we also have a commitment to engage with our communities.The team are extremely invested in the work they do, and it is always satisfying to hear stories of rural students who are so passionate about rural medicine.”

The long road to practising medicine still has six and a half years of twists and turns for Mary, but she is adamant that a rewarding career in rural medicine awaits her.

“The dream is to come back to Rockhampton or go further afield within rural medicine and help the people in the bush,”

“I’m enjoying Brisbane, but that relaxed country lifestyle and community spirit back home is what really appeals to me.”

Like many of the medical students and alumni at UQ, Mary is balancing her studies with life outside the classroom, and was quick to pick up plenty of new activities to fill her diary. “I’ve always found it much easier to do well in the classroom when I’m stress free, and I do that by keeping busy and getting outdoors.

“My bike made the trip down to Brissy with me, so I’ve done plenty of riding and I’ve joined a running club on campus. I’ve also joined the choir at college and have met plenty of really great people. Living on campus has made the whole experience seamless.”

While St Lucia may not have as many kookaburras and its bike paths are a bit more sedate than Rocky’s hills, Mary’s journey is one that resonates with many rural students and alumni.

We wish her all the best as she pursues her medical degree.