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Rural Health System Resources


Commencing Medical Students Data Dashboard


Deans of Medicine of Australia and New Zealand


The Deans of Medicine of Australia and New Zealand publish data annually to report on the number of medical students enrolled in Australian universities. The dashboard allows data to be broken down by rural/urban background to provide rural and remote people with up to date information about how their local university is performing in supporting rural and remote students to study medicine and address rural doctor shortages.

Why is this useful for rural and remote people?

Research shows that medical students from a rural or remote hometown are up to 4 times more likely to work as a rural doctor compared to students from a regional or metropolitan city. It is critical for rural and remote people to know how their university is going in recruiting rural and remote students to see whether they are likely to deliver outcomes for your town. One challenge with the data is that the Deans do not use generally accepted geographic classifications to report on where students come from or where they study (e.g. the most commonly used classification is remoteness areas which breaks down location into major city, inner regional, outer regional, rural and remote). The Deans instead use their own classification scheme which makes it very difficult to compare the performance of medical schools in meeting the needs of different regions. Despite this, the data can be used as a starting point to explore the broad breakdown of the origin of students and where they work. This might form the basis of a conversation with the local university about exactly where students that are occupying "rural medical places" are from (e.g. regional cities, rural towns or remote areas), and what the University is doing to make it easier for rural and remote students to enrol in their medical programs. The data also produces some interesting outcomes, for example, some city universities appear to be recruiting more rural students compared to some regional universities that were specifically funded to deliver medical education to rural and remote students. This raises questions about the accountability of regional universities to their communities for the funding they have received. The data is helpful not because it provides clear answers about the effectiveness of rural medical education programs, but rather because it prompts questions of universities about whether they are accurately recording student place of origin, and how effective their programs are in delivering graduates into rural and remote practice. Rural and remote people might want to use this data as a starting point for a conversation with their local medical dean, Vice-Chancellor or University Council about how the University is performing in expanding educational opportunities for rural and remote kids, and how many graduates it has actually delivered into rural and remote practice.

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