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Learning medicine on the clinical front line

School leavers can jump straight into medicine at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, and will get their first taste of real life on the wards in their first term.

As one of the few universities in Australia to offer undergraduate medical training, UNSW emphasises practical experience - combined with a strong focus on research.

That means UNSW medical graduates are some of the best placed in the region to find positions amid the worldwide squeeze on clinical placements.

UNSW is a founding member of the Group of Eight (Go8) universities and was recently ranked fourth in Australia by the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative in terms of its research capacity.

The Faculty of Medicine is recognised as one of Australia’s best, particularly in the area of biomedical health research. Many of the staff are involved with research, while more than 1,000 working doctors hold unpaid conjoint appointments and contribute to research and teaching.

 “The fact that we are English speaking, we are highly internationally regarded and offer very high quality medical programs which gives our graduates a huge advantage,” says the Dean of Medicine, Professor Peter Smith.

Clinical practice is built into every step of the degree program, with simulated wards at the university, access to virtual patients online, and regular student placements at a large network of teaching hospitals in Sydney and regional Australia.

 “Our philosophy is it’s better to develop a student’s academic skills in the context of how they will be applied, so they can understand the relevance of what they are learning to clinical practice,” says Professor Philip Jones, the Faculty's Associate Dean (Education).

The Faculty of Medicine’s Associate Professor Gary Velan recently won one of Australia’s most prestigious teaching awards for a new online tool for undergraduates in the medicine program, which resulted in improved marks across the board and positive student feedback.

The tool gives students interpretive feedback as they work their way through a number of “real life” medical scenarios, such as interpreting an ECG printout and examining the characteristics of the patient’s heart. At every step, incorrect answers are accompanied with explanations as to how the mistake could have been made and why an alternative answer is correct.

UNSW’s strategic location in close proximity to Sydney’s medical precinct of three major teaching hospitals, and the recent opening on campus of the world-class Lowy Cancer Research Centre, ensure students have access to leaders in the field.  

All undergraduates spend a sixth year at UNSW undertaking a research project to hone their skills in clinical or biomedical research.

“Our graduates leave with some skills in research and are in a very strong position to go on in research and to higher degrees and leadership positions,” says Professor Jones.

The Faculty is half way through a major rebuilding program which will provide cutting-edge facilities to medical students including small group teaching areas, clinical skills centres - simulated to look like a hospital ward – and online learning resources.

Collaborative learning is encouraged, with the curriculum structured so that students from different years and abilities work together.

 “In medicine all doctors have to work in clinical teams and work across different levels of expertise. Our philosophy is to create a strong community of learning, encouraging constant interaction with fellow students,” says Professor Jones.

As well as medicine, the Faculty offers undergraduate programs in exercise physiology and in medical sciences. There is also a large number of postgraduate coursework programs aimed at doctors who are interested in public health, international public health and health management.

One in five of the students at UNSW comes from overseas, meaning the university offers strong student support services and a vibrant, cosmopolitan culture.

UNSW’s Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) is recognised in Singapore and Malaysia.

For further information about the University of New South Wales contact:
T.  +61 2 9385 6996

For further information about the Faculty of Medicine contact:
T. +61 2 9385 8765

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