Regional universities push for medical school

Charles Sturt University and La Trobe University are seeking to address medical staff shortages in their regions through the proposed establishment of the Murray Darling Medical School. Photo: FileTHE MAN charged with convincing the federal government of the need for the proposed Murray Darling Medical School argues that it would breath new life into inland northern Victoria and western NSW.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) and La Trobe University have appointed Mark Burdack to lead the next stage of their bid for a medical school, noting he played a key role in securing cash for the CSU School of Dentistry and Health Sciences and community dental clinics in five communities including Dubbo.

The universities are seeking approval for a new medical school at Orange, Bendigo and Wagga Wagga campuses in an effort to address rural medical workforce shortages in the regions.

It would allow rural students an opportunity to study medicine without having to leave the regions for a metropolitan university.

Mr Burdack has taken up the reins of the bid with enthusiastic argument as to why inland northern Victoria and western NSW “must have their own medical school”.

Firstly, he thinks it’s unfair that students in major cities have a broad range of choices to study medicine on their home turf, as opposed to rural students who have “no local options”.

“If we want a rural health and medical workforce, we need to give rural and Indigenous students more options closer to home,” he said.

Mr Burdack said major research indicated the need to break down silos between doctors, nurses and allied health professions to support team-based health care in rural areas.

“We need to urgently bring medical and health education together in rural areas if we are to deliver effective team-based care in the future,” he said.

The former CSU university secretary and head of corporate governance and regional and government relations said regional campuses generated jobs and economic growth with the proposed medical school sure to stimulate “significant” opportunities.

He said residents of the regions wanted their taxes spent locally and not “sent off to major cities to grow their economies and create jobs at the expense of our communities”.

Mr Burdack said CSU and La Trobe University could prove that 75 per cent of their rural campus health graduates chose to work in rural areas after graduating.

“We need real rural medical schools that deliver the whole of their programs in rural areas, and that is not what we have at the moment,” he said.

“A rural medical school is the right health decision, it is the right economic decision, and it is the only way to ensure equity and a fair go for our regions.”