Melody Miolin is living her dream – a dream firmly fixed by her year of Rural Clinical School in Port Hedland in 2007.
RCS came at the right time. After four years of study, Melody had not yet seen the side of medicine that fired her imagination, nor met her aspirations for a career that enabled both her professional and personal picture of life.
“My fourth year, which was my first clinical year in medical school, just didn’t sit well with me,” she says.
“I was possibly a little bit disillusioned with medicine in general because my exposure was ward rounds that would take eight hours, run by doctors who seemed to not get to have much of a life outside of the hospital or enjoy what they did.
“As well, the busy nature of tertiary hospitals meant relationships with patients seemed quite impersonal.
“But then I came on RCS. I met many fantastic rural doctors who not only had inspiring and interesting clinical work, but they also got to have a life outside of medicine and be involved with the town, see their families and friends and go camping on the weekends.“I learnt that you don’t have to be the sort of doctor who spends 14 hours a day in a tertiary hospital and not have a life outside. You can actually work in a place where you can also be with your family and enjoy time away from medicine. That really appealed to me.
“Coming from the country, I always knew I was likely to end up back rurally. I came to realise that general practice suited my personality and enabled me to have continuity of care with patients, which was important to me.”
Apart from helping to confirm Melody’s course in medicine, her year of RCS also engendered within her a new confidence that proved decidedly advantageous when she returned to Perth for her final year of undergraduate study.
Like so many others who have completed RCS she thrived on the closer relationship that developed with the doctors and mentors from whom she was learning.
“I was not shy, but I was never confident enough in my junior years to be asking questions or putting up my hand to answer questions.
“But in my year at RCS we developed a more personal relationship with the doctors who were teaching us. It meant that I felt so much more comfortable and confident in the clinical setting, and therefore my learning grew exponentially.
Following medical school Melody opted to do her internship at Royal Perth Hospital because it included six months working in Broome … and it was that time which established where she wanted to practice.
She spent the next couple of years gaining experience in areas relevant to rural general practice at Royal Perth Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and King Edward Memorial Hospital as well as returning to Broome for a PGPPP term. At the start of 2012, she started her GP training in the town.
“I work for the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service and am the GP at Headspace, the youth health service here in Broome. My work is varied, stimulating and enjoyable. I like that I am part of the same community in which my patients live.
“I also now work for the Rural Clinical School as a Medical Coordinator. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to inspire enthusiasm about rural medicine to medical students who come to Broome.
“My husband is a graphic designer and he also fell in love with Broome when we moved here during my internship. Since then we have had two daughters and built an amazing, flexible life for ourselves. Mostly, he works the mornings and I work the afternoons, so we both get to spend time with our daughters.
“Between work and home I have a really lovely balance.”
Having known rural and regional life since being born and bred in the cold climate of Manjimup in Western Australia’s south-west, Melody appreciates that it is not the life for everyone.
However, she believes that even for medical students with no intention of practising away from the metropolitan area, a year of Rural Clinical School is rewarding – personally and professionally.
“Outside of the medicine, though, I think that a really important part of the RCS year is going out and experiencing the land and getting to have the adventures that come with it. It is just such a wonderful experience for students no matter what their background or career aspirations.”