JCU Medical School doctors opt for rural practice

James Cook University medical school graduates are increasingly choosing to practice in regional and remote locations, a recent study shows.

The study, James Cook University MBBS graduate intentions and intern destinations: a comparative study with other Queensland and Australian Medical Schools, has been published in the Rural and Remote Health journal.

James Cook University Medical School
It is the first large analysis of data on JCU Medical School graduates and shows the university is producing doctors in a regional location, for regional locations, as opposed to cities.

JCU first offered a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery degree in 2000. It has consistently been very popular with people who live in North Queensland and surrounding regions – and appeals to prospective students from elsewhere who are hoping to pursue a medical career with a rural, tropical and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health focus – including Canadian students.

Professor Richard Murray, Head of JCU’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, said the results proved what many in the school had known.

“This data shows proof of practice destinations, not just good intentions,” Professor Murray said. “While JCU’s School of Medicine encourages applications from students from rural and remote backgrounds, the data shows graduates are choosing to practice in these locations, compared to other Australian Medical Schools.”

Professor Murray said since 1999, the number of medical school places in Australia had increased substantially in response to workforce shortages, with some of the increased capacity in regional and rural communities.

JCU’s School of Medicine, the first of a number of new medical schools, was established with a mission to address the health needs of rural, remote and tropical Australia through aligning student selection, curriculum and assessment practices to encourage generalist postgraduate careers needed in rural and regional areas.

“This article reports early evidence on the career outcomes of graduates in the first six cohorts from 2005 to 2010, and compares this with available data from other Queensland and Australian Medical Schools.”

Data was gathered from two sources to allow comparisons of career intentions and intern allocations of graduates from JCU with those from other Australian Medical Schools, he said.

“An exit survey of JCU graduates provided JCU student data while the Medical Students Outcomes Database provided comparable data for eight other, largely metropolitan, schools.

“At graduation, 88 per cent of JCU Medical School students intended to practise outside Australian capital cities compared with 31 per cent of graduates from other medical schools.”

More JCU Medical School graduates than others planned to work in rural towns or regional centres with a population of less than 100 000.

Professor Murray said 67 per cent of JCU Medical School graduates undertook their internship outside a metropolitan centre compared with 17 per cent of others, and 47 per cent in outer regional centres compared with 5 per cent, respectively.

Medical graduates from JCU are also more likely to prefer general practice as a career, particularly rural medicine, but otherwise had similar preferences to others.

Interest in ‘working in a rural area’ increased over the course duration, from 68 per cent at entry to 76 per cent at graduation.

“While further follow up is needed to track career progression over a longer time, the data so far suggest that the career outcomes of JCU Medical School  graduates are aligned with the workforce needs of the region, and different from those graduating from Australia’s predominantly metropolitan medical schools, as predicted by the program’s design.”


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