SA’s first country trained doctors to boost rural medical services

In a state first, medical students can now undertake their entire training in rural South Australia, in a bold new initiative by Flinders University to tackle the critical shortage of doctors in rural and regional areas.

Starting in 2025, the South Australia Rural Medical (SARM) Program is the first degree of its kind in South Australia, offering medical students the opportunity to study Flinders’ renowned medical program outside the metropolitan area.

Flinders medical students in the Barossa simulation centre

“The SARM Program offers diverse clinical training and experiences that will equip rural doctors with the skills to improve the health and wellbeing of local communities.

Research shows that students who choose to study in rural areas are more likely to work in regional cities, small towns or communities when they graduate, says Professor Claire Drummond, Deputy Dean, Rural and Remote Health SA at Flinders University.

“Our rural medical program will play a critical role in addressing doctor shortages in SA country area, with studies showing that the best prospect for keeping and attracting doctors to rural Australia is to offer training and placements in those areas,” she says.

Flinders University has been a longtime advocate for the importance of rural medical education in regional South Australia and the Northern Territory to inspire the next generation of rural doctors.

Professor Claire Drummond

“We want to immerse our medical students in these regional areas for training so that they can see firsthand the wonderful aspects of living and working in a welcoming rural community,” says Professor Drummond.

“Our goal is to graduate cohorts of locally trained doctors who are well-rounded, understand the impact of social factors on health, and incorporate cultural sensitivity into their daily practice,” she adds.

Medical education and training in rural areas has proven to attract doctors into the rural workforce, providing career opportunities for existing rural doctors, and improving access to quality healthcare for the community.

Flinders University recently received 25% of all new rural places released by the Australian Government for training in a rural setting, the largest share of places of any university in the country.

The Federal Government allocated an additional 20 Commonwealth Supported Places, with a co-contribution by Flinders to offer the SARM Program to a cohort of 46 students.

“This means that for the first time in the history of medical education, 46 students every year will be able to complete their entire training in regional South Australia,” says Professor Drummond.

“This funding reflects Flinders’ continuous commitment and excellence in providing medical education in rural South Australia and producing locally trained and highly skilled doctors for their communities.

“Since we established the first Commonwealth-funded South Australian Rural Clinical School in Renmark in 1997, we have been committed to positively impacting communities and playing a vital role in medical education, research and clinical education in rural South Australia,” she adds.

Flinders University currently offers third-year medical students a year-long placement across a range of locations, including in the Barossa, Riverland, Hills Mallee Fleurieu and Greater Green Triangle.

The new funding will allow Flinders to extend its program so that students can undertake their entire four years of study across these regions.

The launch of the new program comes as Flinders University celebrates 50 years of delivering medical training to generations of doctors who are caring for patients, advancing research, transforming healthcare, and educating the next cohort of medical professionals.

Priority admission for the SARM Program is for residents of rural South Australia, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander applicants and applicants from interstate with rural backgrounds.

Applicants from metropolitan backgrounds who wish to pursue a career in rural medicine are also encouraged to apply.

More information on Flinders’ South Australia Rural Medical (SARM) Program can be found here:

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College of Medicine and Public Health Flinders Rural and Remote Health