Dr Clarise Sornachalam and Dr David Dowden are two of 46 doctor interns at Mackay Hospital and Health Service.
Dr Clarise Sornachalam and Dr David Dowden are two of 46 doctor interns at Mackay Hospital and Health Service.

Record number of intern doctors to boost region’s services

A record intake of intern doctors will rotate through the Mackay Hospital and Health Service as they set out on their respective careers and medical fields.

The 46 new interns will be hosted at Mackay Base Hospital with rotations through Proserpine, Bowen and Mater hospitals over the next 12 months.

It is an exciting time for Dr Clarise Sornachalam who is following in her father and brother’s footsteps in medicine.

“My dad is a doctor – an occupation physician – and we moved to Mackay when I was five because of his work,” Dr Sornachalam said.

“My brother decided to go into medicine and studied through JCU and worked at the Base.

“I followed suit afterwards, through JCU and I decided to stay in Mackay because I have had such a great time in Mackay.”

Dr Sornachalam has worked rotations in the child and adolescent health department at MBH and wants to specialise in paediatrics.

“I have been hoping for a long time from when I started my medical studies to work with children,” she said.

Proserpine Hospital. Picture: Laura Thomas
Proserpine Hospital. Picture: Laura Thomas

“All my rotations in paediatrics have been really good and I just love children, and it is definitely something I applied for and am happy to have gotten.”

Dr David Dowden has set out on a new career path from his background as a qualified physiotherapist.

Dr Dowden, a mature-age student, said he was attracted to rural medicine and the scope of the work it could afford doctors.

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“I was living in regional Queensland and had a lot to do with rural medical services and kind of saw two things – the need for good rural medical services, as well as what a rewarding career that could be,” he said.

“That dragged me back into study and university to take that path.

“It was shock to the system to go through that whole process again after nearly 20 years but at the same time it was quite luxurious studying full-time in my 40s.”

Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin
Mackay Base Hospital. Picture: Tony Martin

Dr Dowden said he was open to regional and rural medical opportunities.

“It’s really interesting medicine because you do do bits of everything,” he said.

“You might be the only person there and that’s part of the attraction, a kind of excitement I guess.”

MHHS chief executive officer Lisa Davies-Jones said the interns would have access to a state-of-the-art simulation centre, where they could undertake real-life case scenarios just as they would encounter in the ward or emergency department.

The internship consists of three core rotations in general medicine, general surgical and emergency medicine and electives chosen from obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, mental health, rural hospital, general practice and intensive care.

“We always hope the junior doctors choose to continue their training in Mackay at the end of their internship,” said Ms Davies Jones.

“There are good opportunities for doctors to stay here and move into programs such as the general practice training, psychiatry, anaesthetics, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology and emergency medicine,” she said.

The doctor interns will do rotations through Bowen Hospital.
The doctor interns will do rotations through Bowen Hospital.

Clinical Training Director Stephen Lambert said the majority were graduates of James Cook University and the University of Queensland.

“The interns are buddied with a 2020 intern as part of their orientation and we find that it helps the new doctors settle in and get some tips on how to manage their workflow and processes,” Dr Lambert said.

“It’s a confidence boost as well to get some advice from someone who has been in your shoes just a year ago.”

The 2021 intern year has allocated more time in the core rotations of medicine and surgery, to allow interns to mature their skills before gaining more experience preparing for specialty training in their resident year.

Dr Lambert said about half of last year’s interns had chosen to stay in Mackay.

“We have improved retention of interns from previous year and one reason is we have created a program where they can spend longer times in a chosen speciality such as general surgery or orthopaedics.”

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Mackay MP and Assistant Health Minister Julieanne Gilbert welcomed the interns, who rotate through four hospitals in the region.

“It’s an exciting day to be welcoming a record number of intern doctors to our region,” she said.

“They are joining our local health system during a global pandemic to provide the best care for our community.

“They have undertaken years of study, and I’m sure that they will enjoy rewarding careers caring for our community.


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