JCU medical students enhance their learning in Singapore

A group of fourth-year medical students from James Cook University have set off to study in Singapore under the Federal Government’s $100 million New Colombo Plan (NCP).

James Cook University Medical School
JCU Medical School specializes in rural and remote tropical medicine

The government announced JCU would receive $48,000 to help send 16 students to Singapore to start an eight-week study program in Semester 1, 2014.

The NCP offers Australian undergraduates scholarships and grants for study and internships or mentorships in the Indo-Pacific region.

The students will undertake semester-based and short-term study, as well as practical teaching exercises, research, field studies and clinical placements.

The Singapore College of Family Physicians (SCFP) will operate the placements with designated SCFP members as tutors.

Head of JCU’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, Professor Richard Murray, said the funds would enable the continuation of a mutually beneficial arrangement between the two countries.

“James Cook University is intent on a brighter future for life in the tropics worldwide,” Professor Murray said. “Our purpose in collaborating in medical education in Singapore has many mutual benefits, and also strengthens connections for our Australian medical graduates.”

Professor Murray said there were substantial common medical concerns in both countries.
“Singapore and tropical Australia share a tropical context and similar challenges, such as population ageing, tropical diseases like dengue and the need to deliver high-quality, affordable health care in ways that are relevant to our contexts.

“Our partnership with the College of Family Physicians Singapore is particularly valuable,” he said. “These study programs also provide the groundwork for future collaboration in health professional education and research.”

The MBBS program at JCU Medical School is a six-year undergraduate medical course, the first three of which involve a curriculum of biomedical and social sciences, and the foundations of clinical medicine. The fourth year of the course (MBBS 4) is the first year students have regular clinical placements and work in small groups with clinicians and patients.

JCU Medical School piloted clinical placements—as a selective, rather than an elective—in Singapore for MBBS Year 4 students in 2012 and 2013 with great success.

“The Singapore study program provides students the opportunity to attain clinical competencies while achieving a deeper understanding of the medical, cultural and political context of an important Asia-Pacific neighbour,” Professor Murray said.

“It allows them to form professional relationships with their Singaporean peers and senior colleagues in the medical and allied health professions; and to be exposed to future opportunities for collaborative work and research.”

Professor Murray said currently, students from less privileged backgrounds were less likely to participate in the Singapore selective due to prohibitive travel and accommodation costs.

“While JCU provides some assistance to participating students, the NCP Mobility Pilot grant enables a wider cross-section of students to participate.”

The funding will be used to cover the cost of student travel to and from Singapore, as well as accommodation and living costs for the eight-week placement.

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