WHEN oncologist Dr Rob Zielinski came to Orange to spend a year training at Orange Base Hospital through the University of Sydney’s School of Rural Health more than 10 years ago, it was a visit that would become the catalyst for a major lifestyle change.
“I was from Sydney - I’d never been past the Blue Mountains and I was absolutely oblivious to what was going on out here,” he said.
After finishing his training in Sydney Dr Zielinski and his wife decided Orange would be a great place to live and work and bring up their two small children.
“That experience I had along with the other cohort of medical students was absolutely fantastic back then - it was a great year,” he said.
“Not only were we given so many opportunities, but people like Dr Gabriel Shannon and other staff made the experience memorable in terms of our training.”
Dr Zielinski was part of the first group of Sydney University students who gained work placement experience in Orange as part of their degree qualifications and he volunteered to come to Orange.
“Under the program 25 per cent of students have to come out here for a rural experience and if you didn’t volunteer you were nominated,” he said.
“I believe even today that system still operates with the students s elf-nominating.”
He says as a permanent staff member at the hospital he has been impressed by the number of patients who have appreciated having specialist oncology services permanently based out of Orange instead of fly-in fly-out doctors.
“When I was back in Sydney I thought I could really live out here - Orange is such a progressive place with a great intensive care department which is a key factor,” he said.
“Apart from just a couple of specialist surgeons all the staff and facilities are here at Orange.”
Dr Zielinski said the government’s plan to encourage doctors to train in rural areas was working well.
“It has been a huge success and I would never have come out here to a rural area if there hadn’t been a quota system in place for medical students,” he said.
Under the University of Sydney School of Rural Health program student doctors live and work in Orange for 12 months during their degree training.