Natasha Austin and Mark Owen-Cooper, fifth year medical students at the University of Otago School of Medicine, have been announced as the 2017/2018 recipients of the Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust Travelling Scholarship by Sue Farry on behalf of the Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust’s trustees.

The scholarships are worth a total of $10,000 and will assist the students with costs associated with undertaking trainee intern electives in innovative and challenging overseas situations next year. Natasha Austin, from Invercargill, will travel to Vanuatu and Scotland while Mark Owen-Cooper, from Invercargill, will travel throughout New Zealand, Scotland and the United States of America.

“The Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust’s vision is for our work and the experiences that these medical students gain on their electives to ultimately contribute to the quality of rural health services in all regions of New Zealand,” said Mrs Farry.

Natasha Austin

Natasha Austin begins her eight-week elective in Vanuatu at the Northern District Hospital on the outlying Vanuatu island. The 130 bed hospital provides for patients throughout the Northern Archipelago and is reliant on International Aid for day-to-day survival.

“I believe I have a lot to learn from this rural placement including working within the system of whole family care as well as managing the lack of resources,” says Ms Austin.

After this Austin will travel to Fort William a 35 bed hospital in Scotland where she will learn about the differences in the rural health teaching programme compared to New Zealand. She will then finish her elective on Malta in the emergency department of Msida, an 800 bed city hospital.

“To succeed in rural medicine, it is essential to gain experience in areas of high patient turnover in order to best recognise less common presentations,” says Ms Austin.

Mark Owen-Cooper will spend 12 weeks on elective, initially travelling with the Mobile Surgical Bus throughout New Zealand gaining practical hands on experience of healthcare in rural and remote towns, before heading to the Shetland Islands in Scotland.

Mark Owen-Cooper

“Hopefully while in Scotland I will learn how things are done within the National Health Service with identifying if we can introduce any of their practices into a New Zealand setting,” says Owen-Cooper.

Mark Owen-Cooper will complete his elective in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, USA. Owen-Cooper will be participating in a Wilderness Medicine First Responder Course organised and run by the Wilderness Medicine Society. The course will involve learning the skills needed to proficiently assess and manage patients in remote pre-hospital settings.

“I feel this course is of the utmost significance to working in a rural setting here in New Zealand as we all know that most of the trauma we deal with doesn’t happen conveniently near hospitals, but in the back of high country stations, on the remote roads of the West Coast, and in the thousands of acres of our lush New Zealand bush,” says Owen-Cooper.

While based at the Dunedin campus of the University of Otago School of Medicine, Natasha Austin and Mark Owen-Cooper have spent the past year living and working in Greymouth and Dannevirke respectively. Both have been part of the Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP). The RMIP was developed by Dr Farry in six rural locations around New Zealand and sees around 20 fifth year students a year learn under the guidance and mentoring of experienced general practitioners, rural hospital generalists and tertiary hospital specialists.

“Since 2011, 22 medical students have benefitted from the Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust’s scholarship programme. The latest scholarships will bring the total amount awarded by the Trust in scholarships and grants to $70,000,” said Mrs Farry.

Earlier this year, 2016/2017 Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust Travelling Scholarship recipients Jordan Gibbs and Ursula Poole travelled to Tonga, Tanzania and Sri Lanka. The pair have documented their experiences via blog on the Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust’s website and Facebook page.




Claire Dooney

Pat Farry Rural Health Education Trust

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Tel: 027 632 0821