The Rural Clinical School of WA

Dr Amanda Thomas

Physician, Sydney

"From our first day of medicine, all we heard were rave reviews from anyone who was lucky enough to get a place "

Amanda Thomas was born to medicine, following her father and her grandparents into the profession.

“As a little child I used to go on lots of my dad’s ward rounds, and for as long as I can remember I only wanted to do medicine. I have a photo of when I was about eight months old where I have a stethoscope around my neck,” she says.

Amanda ThomasFast forward to 2008 and Amanda is in Kalgoorlie doing Rural Clinical School, starting a year that led her to a “more holistic experience of medicine in Australia.”

“Firstly, it was a real opportunity to get your hands dirty and have a bit of autonomy. At a 5th year level we were doing ED shifts seeing patients and managing patients, seeing patients in GP settings and in remote community settings.

“You got to do things rather than stand at the back of a crowd of people going on a ward round with the consultant, the registrar, the resident intern, the 6th year medical students, the 5th year medical students … as a 5th year medical student you would be lucky if you could stand on your toes to see what was going on at the end of the city ward round.

“So certainly the learning experience was a lot more wholesome and rewarding.

“Secondly, I think you gain an appreciation for medicine at the grass roots. I ended up in the Kimberley and realised that in our backyard there is probably third world medicine going on every day, and that the lifestyles of people in country towns, especially Aboriginal people, are often quite profoundly deprived compared to what we see in the city.

“So I think it sort of gives you a more holistic experience of medicine in Australia.”

Of her teachers – the doctors and RCS Medical Co-ordinators – Amanda says they were not only  “remarkably resourceful and very skilled” … “very patient and generous with their time, inside and outside of work hours” … but they were “really dedicated to the cause of their jobs.”

And then there was the fun of RCS.

“You find yourself creating a lot of fun for yourself,” she says.

“We entered a lot of community events – there was one where you had to run 20 kilometres in the bush with all the things you would need to go gold panning … one of the old wheelbarrows, a gold pick and things like that…

“There were lots of dress up parties, trips to Esperance and trips with a prominent Aboriginal family out hunting and having goanna fat sandwiches.

“I actually met my now husband in a pub in Kalgoorlie early on in the piece, and we used to go out into the bush on the weekends with our cast iron stove and make a campfire and cook a Sunday roast with our friends.

“It was just phenomenal the things you do – very different from the things we get up to in Perth on the weekend.

“And then there were the friendships that we formed. I went with my best friend, but there were I think eight other med students there that I didn’t know so well, and over the course of the year they became very dear friends – people that you have actually been through uni with for the last four years and not had the opportunity to get to know.”

Now living and working in Sydney as she completes her training in gastroenterology, the years since Kalgoorlie have seen Amanda experience both rural and remote medicine, working in places like Albany on Western Australia’s south coast up to the other end of the state – Broome, Wyndham and Aboriginal communities such as Oombulgurri and Kalumburu.

“The first experience of Aboriginal health is really confronting,” she says.

“RCS gave me the opportunity to do positive things with the Aboriginal kids. We set up an after school program for hip hop dance classes and basketball games. Similarly - in Oombulgurri, I ran the same dance classes and sex ed groups"

“It’s nice to break down the barriers and have shared experiences.”

Amanda’s long term plan is to return to Perth, but travel regularly to rural areas for gastro clinics and scope lists…


This Page

Last updated:
Wednesday, 7 December, 2016 9:33 PM