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Uncertain future clouds outlook for aspiring doctors


This is an interesting time of year for medical students.

For most, exams have just finished and celebrations will undoubtedly ensue.

For some, these celebrations are tempered by the risk of supplementary examinations, or even failure. For these students, this period of time can be really tough.

As the National Vice-Chancellor Tour raps up as part of the 2014 AMSA Mental Health Campaign, representatives from all 20 medical schools are immersed in planning the campaign for 2015.

For just under a quarter of students, this time is filled with a combination of nervous excitement and relief as they walk out of hospital for the last time as a medical student, to return in a few weeks as a junior doctor.

Alas, for a number of international students, this excitement is overwhelmed by growing stress; the clock is ticking. Their student visas will soon expire, yet their future is still up in the air as they await the possibility of being awarded one of the few remaining State vacancies or a Commonwealth Medical Internship (CMI) offer.

As the first round of internships draw to a close at the end of 2014, the CMI initiative itself has been generally well received. It changes the lives of doctors offered a job under this scheme who would have otherwise been lost to opportunities overseas.

The process of applying for a CMI is complicated, however, by the fact that each agency has its own independent application process, with varying timelines and requirements, resulting in round after round of offers being made to students until no vacancies remain.

These State-based application processes have to be almost completely exhausted and the offers allocated, before CMI applications can be made, leaving hundreds of international students in the lurch.

Efforts are being made to better manage late vacancies at a national level but, ultimately, only small gains can be made.

What is needed is a national application process, which would ameliorate most of these concerns.

In the coming months, new students will enter medical school for the first time; starting their journey to become a doctor.

I’m sure many of these prospective medical students breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Federal Government’s fee deregulation legislation was defeated in the Senate last week.

AMSA, along with the AMA, has been very active on this front.

After many media releases and interviews, multiple trips to Canberra to lobby on the issue, numerous emails and meetings with the cross-bench Senators, and presentations at two Senate Select Committee hearings, we are all truly stoked with this result.

I would like to thank the AMA, and in particular President Associate Professor Brian Owler, Vice President Dr Stephen Parnis and AMA Council of Doctors in Training Chair Dr James Churchill, for their continued support of AMSA and medical students in general.

At the end of December my Victorian Executive will have finished our term and will hand over to a very competent and enthusiastic NSW Executive, led by James Lawler from the University of Newcastle.

I wish James and his team the very best for 2015.

Jessica Dean is the President of the Australian Medical Students’ Association. Jessica is a 6th year Medicine/Law student at Monash University. She is currently completing an Honours Project in Bioethics at The Alfred. Follow on Twitter @AMSAPresident or @yourAMSA