Valley just what the doctor ordered

Medical student Melissa Bruerton has spent time in south-east Asia and had a taste of living in the big smoke, however she’s certain the Latrobe Valley is where she wants to plant her feet.

The 21-year-old Monash Rural Health student grew up in Morwell and six years ago her family moved to Hazelwood North, where she lives with her parents after returning from studying biomedicine at the university’s Clayton campus.

“My parents finally had all the kids out, but I’ve moved back home so they didn’t get to enjoy it for very long,” Ms Bruerton said.

The support from family and home-cooked meals have certainly been a help for Ms Bruerton in her “hectic” study load.

She’s undertaking her pre-clinical year before setting off to do a range of placements and rotations around practices and hospitals in the region.

“Next year it’s just (general placements), but after that we get to go to a GP clinic and we also get to do women’s health and surgery, so I’m looking forward to those, just to experience different things,” Ms Bruerton said.

This year the cohort has had small tastes of placements around the region, which has caused her to realise the reality is “so different to the textbooks”.

“You can read and read and read, but it can be so different with a patient, and even just learning people’s struggles and experiences and you can’t learn that from a textbook I guess,” Ms Bruerton said.

“I sort of have a few ideas about my different specialties but I think I want to go into general practice so I can have that one-on-one interaction with patients, to get to know people as well as treating.”

Her interest in the medical pathway has been firm since high school, and a post-year 12 trip to an orphanage in Cambodia fixed her desire to help people.

“It taught me how many people are underprivileged and don’t have those medical facilities that we have here, so I wanted to have a skillset that would be of value wherever I was to help those people around me,” Ms Bruerton said.

The rewarding-yet-challenging volunteering program was for teaching English to and taking care of children from three to 12 years old.

“It was shocking to see people living in shacks who didn’t have access to clean water… let alone a good hospital they can go to (that) they can afford and have good treatment,” Ms Bruerton said.

“Hopefully when I’m qualified I’ll be able to go over and help out a bit more in terms of the medical pathway, because teaching English is definitely not my strong suit,” she said.

When she finishes her degree, however, she has her sights set on working in the region to keep her skills and knowledge in Gippsland.

“It’s where my family is, it’s where I’ve grown up and I know the struggles of living in Gippsland and like country life.

“I remember even in high school, all the long trips up to Melbourne to go to special lectures.

“Recently a family member was diagnosed with cancer, so there’s a lot of travelling up to Melbourne to see different specialists, so I definitely understand living rural can be difficult at times.”