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Project Report

From the bush to the big smoke development of a hybrid urban community based medical education program in the Northern Territory, Australia

Submitted: 10 February 2009
Revised: 6 July 2009
Published: 8 September 2009

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Author(s) : Morgan S, Smedts A, Campbell N, Sager R, Lowe M, Strasser S.

Simon MorganAnna SmedtsRichard SagerMichael Lowe

Citation: Morgan S, Smedts A, Campbell N, Sager R, Lowe M, Strasser S.  From the bush to the big smoke development of a hybrid urban community based medical education program in the Northern Territory, Australia. Rural and Remote Health 9: 1175. (Online) 2009. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au

ABSTRACT

Context: The Northern Territory (NT) of Australia is a unique setting for training medical students. This learning environment is characterised by Aboriginal health and an emphasis on rural and remote primary care practice. For over a decade the NT Clinical School (NTCS) of Flinders University has been teaching undergraduate medical students in the NT. Community based medical education (CBME) has been demonstrated to be an effective method of learning medicine, particularly in rural settings. As a result, it is rapidly gaining popularity in Australia and other countries. The NTCS adopted this model some years ago with the implementation of its Rural Clinical School; however, urban models of CBME are much less well developed than those in rural areas. There is considerable pressure to better incorporate CBME into medical student teaching environment, particularly because of the projected massive increase in student numbers over the next few years. To date, the community setting of urban Darwin, the NT capital city, has not been well utilised for medical student training.
Issue: In 2008, the NTCS enrolled its first cohort of students in a new hybrid CBME program based in urban Darwin. This report describes the process and challenges involved in development of the program, including justification for a hybrid model and the adaptation of a rural model to an urban setting. Relationships were established and formalised with key partners and stakeholders, including GPs and general practices, Aboriginal medical services, community based healthcare providers and other general practice and community organisations. Other significant issues included curriculum development and review, development of learning materials and the establishment of robust evaluation methods.
Lessons learnt: Development of the CBME model in Darwin posed a number of key challenges. Although the experience of past rural programs was useful, a number of distinct differences were evident in the urban setting. Change leadership and inter-professional collaboration were key strengths in the implementation and ongoing evaluation of the program. The program will provide important information about medical student training in urban community settings, and help inform other clinical schools considering the adoption of similar models.

Key words: community based medical education, medical students, training, undergraduate.

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