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Campus News : October 2012
6 CONNECT :UOW OCTOBER 2012 CONNECT: GSM FEATURE MEDICAL SCHOOL TAKES OFF South African-born Professor Garne developed his love of flying when he spent two years as a doctor with the South African Air Force, undertaking compulsory national service after he completed his medical degree. "I was stationed at a jet training base and had the opportunity to fly with some highly qualified pilots, and decided that I wanted to get my pilot's licence too," he said. However, a move to Australia and the subsequent development of a flourishing General Practice in Baulkham Hills put those plans on the backburner, although he maintained an interest in aviation as a Designated Aviation Medical Examiner. Then a chance encounter in 2001 with an 89-year- old man who had applied to get his pilot's licence spurred him into action. "An 89-year-old gentlemen came to me for a medical examination to get his pilot's licence, but he wasn't medically fit so I had to fail him," Professor Garne said. "He told me that he's always wanted to get his licence, but something always got in the way and obviously he had left it too late. "I was in my mid-forties at the time, and I thought that would be me if I didn't do something about it -- so started pilot training straight away." MEET OUR FLYING DOCTOR Associate Professor David Garne with his Cirrus aircraft at Illawarra Regional Airport. Associate Professor David Garne is the University of Wollongong's own flying doctor -- regularly flying his four-seater Cirrus aircraft to regional centres around NSW in his role for the Graduate School of Medicine (GSM). Professor Garne is the GSM's Associate Dean: Community, Primary, Remote and Rural Health -- responsible for placing third year medical students in hospitals and clinics in regional NSW for their 38-week clinical placement. These long placements are a key element of the medical course developed by the GSM, which was established with a clear vision to train doctors to work in regional, rural and remote areas. GSM students are based at 10 hubs in regional NSW: the Illawarra (Wollongong), the Shoalhaven (Nowra), Milton-Ulladulla, the Southern Highlands (Bowral), Murwillumbah, Byron-Ballina, Murrumbidgee (Griffith, Leeton and Narranderra), Mudgee, Grafton and Broken Hill. "I have a lot of distance to cover working with groups from Murwillumbah in the north, as far west as Broken Hill and down to the Riverina," Professor Garne said. "I love flying and have my own plane, so it saves time and makes sense to fly rather than drive to many of my visits." Professor Garne also maintains his clinical work by doing locums in regional centres including Broken Hill, Grafton, Gundagai and Griffith, using his plane whenever possible. Professor Garne helped establish Wollongong's program in Broken Hill when he was working as a doctor at the Royal Flying Doctor Service base in the far western NSW town. "I helped set up a program in Broken Hill for long- term placements for medical students from the University of Wollongong, the University of Sydney and the University of Adelaide," Professor Garne said. "Previously we had seen medical students come out from the city for two to four weeks, but they were basically there as tourists -- just to have a look. "We wanted to make it more meaningful for the students, so they would really get an idea of what practising medicine in the bush was really like. We set up a long-term placement scheme, and Wollongong's new medical school really embraced it. "That led to an association with the GSM, which in turn led to the opportunity to come to Wollongong in May 2011 and become involved in running the placements program across the state."
CONNECT:UOW July 2012