Home' InDaily : August 26th 2010 Contents Vol21No7August2010|3
Hearing the needs of remote communities
Eye conditions tend to dominate
coverage of health in remote
communities, but Dr Simon Carney,
consultant and associate professor in ENT
surgery at Flinders University and Flinders
Medical Centre, says hearing loss due to
ear infections affects as many as 40 per
cent of school-age Indigenous children in
remote communities, seriously disrupting
their classroom learning and their
Associate Professor Carney helps to run
an educational program that sees
Flinders students perform diagnostic
hearing and ear health tests in remote
Indigenous communities. The program
recently received a Citation Award from
the Australian Teaching and Learning
With Associate Professor Linnett Sanchez,
Ms Karen Sparrow and Associate
Professor David Turner, Associate
Professor Carney takes groups of
audiology, speech pathology and medical
students on two-week visits to the
Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara
(APY) Lands in South Australia.
The ALTC Citation acknowledged the
team for "fostering professional and
personal learning and development
beyond the comfort zone".
Associate Professor Carney said increasing
numbers of medical students are
becoming involved in the trips to the Lands.
"A lot of them want to make a difference,
and want to find out at first-hand what
the problems are of managing medical
conditions in that sort of environment,"
While the distance to the APY Lands
and the basic accommodation on
schoolroom floors might be initially
daunting, Associate Professor Carney
said the students acquire invaluable
"The skills that all the students develop
have been quite impressive; they're pretty
good diagnosticians at the end of the two
weeks," Associate Professor Carney said.
"It's hard work, but everyone works
together as a team, and as an
educational experience it's pretty unique.
"I don't think there's a single student
that's come back from one of these trips
without being a changed person and
having more motivation in sorting out
As well as its educational role, the
program brings obvious health benefits
to the communities and is providing
research data that could lead to
Testing hearing in APY Lands.
innovative programs of prevention as
well. Associate Professor Carney said that
the program was also informing the
improvement of systems of service
delivery to remote areas.
"This isn't just an Indigenous health issue,
it's related to location as well: kids in the
desert communities do far worse than
Aboriginal kids in urban settings."
Photo: David Turner
Help for depressed medical students
It's a question of finding the right
balance and knowing that if you're
struggling, help is available," he said.
Executive Dean of Flinders Faculty of
Health Sciences, Professor Michael Kidd,
said it was "impressive to see medical
students at Flinders taking the initiative
to develop a seminar and accompanying
research to support the mental
wellbeing of their peers".
"The first dictum of medicine is 'First, do
no harm'. This usually applies to ensuring
that no harm comes to our patients but it
also needs to be applied to medical
students and doctors," Professor Kidd said.
"If we don't look after our own physical
and mental wellbeing, we will not have
the capacity and resilience to provide
continuing high quality care to our
patients and our communities," he said.
This month, in the first event of its kind in
Australia, 250 Flinders University medical
students met to explore ways of
addressing this troubling phenomenon
at Mental Health in Medicine 2010,
a seminar run by the Flinders Medical
One of the nation's leading mental health
specialists, 2010 Australian of the Year,
Professor Patrick McGorry, was a special
Chair of the seminar, Flinders medical
student Minh Nguyen said the aim of
the seminar was to shift attitudes to
mental health and wellbeing among
"With their tremendous study load,
medical students have a lot of strain on
their personal and family lives, as well as
their physical and mental wellbeing,"
Mr Nguyen said.
"Some stress, anxiety and strain on
personal life is intrinsic to medical school
and some even see this as admirable.
A major survey of 1000 Australian
medical students last year found they
reported higher rates of depression than
the rest of the population, the result of
poor mental health awareness and the
stigma of mental illness in medicine.
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