Written by UWA Doctor of Podiatric Medicine students Deborah Lai-Tong, Mengyuan Huang, and Evan Papadopoulos.
In February 2018, as final year University of Western Australia Doctor of Podiatric Medicine post-graduate students, three of us undertook a two-week non-traditional rural placement with the WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) in Karratha, Western Australia. This placement was liaised through UWA’s Head of Division Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, Associate Professor Michael Wilding, and organised by WACRH’s Associate Professor Dr Monica Moran and the rest of the WACRH team based in Karratha.
The placement involved an orientation program outlining health care in the Pilbara region, community project work and visits to the Hedland Health Campus. A significant portion of our time was spent with the UWA medical students learning about the issues of healthcare faced in the Pilbara region, especially high staff turnover, limited resources and transport limitations in delivering health care, as well as the programs set in place to help tackle these difficult issues. ‘Closing the gap’ is a major focus in the Pilbara, aiming to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. We were able to merge the theories we’ve discussed into real-life experiences during our visits to the Hedland Health Campus with Dr Scott Westover, who did everything he could to ensure a rich learning opportunity for podiatry, and more importantly rural podiatry.
Despite the weight of the topics we were being faced with during our placement, our experience was nothing short of amazing. Not only did we learn valuable lessons about podiatry in the rural health care setting, we were also able to explore the surrounding towns, go on a boat cruise, and eat at many of the local restaurants.
We would like to extend a special thank you to the WACRH staff, Dr Scott Westover and Associate Professor Michael Wilding for organising such an enriching rural experience for us.