During 2022, I had the pleasure of being President of the Curtin Rural Outreach Health Club (CROHC), which is the rural health club of Curtin Medical School (CMS). Founded in 2019, the club has a current membership base of over 300 students with a strong interest in rural health. CROHC’s key objective is to provide rural educational opportunities for members while empowering country high school students to apply for medical school.
By far the most valuable and successful program we have run over the past two-years, in partnership with CMS, has been our Rural High School Visit (RHSV) program. Through this 2021–22 initiative, we were able to connect with over 500 students from 28 high schools in rural Western Australia (WA). This included visits to campuses representing the South West, Great Southern and Goldfields regions of WA. While there, our members facilitated workshops on career opportunities in rural health, entrance requirements for medical school and support opportunities, such as scholarships, offered to rural students by CMS.
Our volunteers created break-out groups where personal questions could be asked in a small and less formal setting. This allowed the students to feel more comfortable asking questions that they may not have felt confident enough to ask in front of the whole class. These proved to be highly enriching sessions for both the high school students and CMS students involved in facilitating the sessions.
While visiting rural towns, we encouraged medical student volunteers to spend time within the community to get a glimpse of what the town had to offer. This not only added value to this program, but also allowed the volunteers an opportunity to get a feel for the town. Such initiatives may also influence medical students to preference these locations in their rural clinical school applications, later in their medical education.
If this program was to assist just one rural student to consider a career in medicine, it could be described as a success. However, the program has surpassed our expectations, with the rural-origin student applications into CMS increasing significantly over the past two years of the program. Moving into 2023, we will continue this initiative and plan to extend our outreach through collaboration with the Rural Clinical School of WA and other university rural health clubs in WA.
The RHSV program not only provides country high school students with valuable information and guidance on considering a career in rural medicine, but also provides an opportunity for current CMS students to travel and experience rural WA. This is highly complementary to our medical school education and allows for more rural emersion experiences, which are limited during the first few years of medical school.
We currently have over 60 trained volunteers, with many having already been on a high school visit. Some of our volunteers have no rural background themselves but, through their experiences with CMS, CROHC events on campus and programs such as the RHSV program, they are encouraged in pursuing rural opportunities into the future.
From day one of medical school, CROHC provides an easily accessible wealth of rural resources for students at CMS. With our membership base significantly expanding, alongside rapid growth in our events portfolio and connections, CROHC will continue to focus on prompting, educating and supporting the next generation of rural doctors.