Remote Medicine in the Arctic

Deakin Medical students Laura and Terrance English have gone where few Australian medical students have gone before them. A thirst for adventure and curiosity for other cultures and healthcare practices has led the couple to undertake their clinical placement at Bispebjerg Hospital in Copenhagen, followed by a week-long research visit to Greenland to learn about approaches to remote medicine and community health services. 

Through their Medicine studies at Deakin, Laura and Terrance have had a strong focus on regional, rural and remote healthcare. Both Laura and Terrance are likely to be based rurally in the future, so are well placed to navigate their medical careers in the country.

Terrance and Laura in Nuuk, Greenland 

Deakin’s connection with the University of Greenland/Ilismatursarfik is growing ever stronger and Laura and Terrance were provided with an enriching program that included meetings with Ilismatursarfik Faculty of Health staff and visits to clinical settings in the capital of Nuuk. The aim was to gain a better understanding of the major health issues faced by Greenlandic communities, by engaging with healthcare professionals and gaining a first-hand experience of the clinical environment.

Terrance examines the ER supplies

Remote communities in Greenland share many of the same critical health issues and obstacles as communities in remote Australia. In Greenland, if a patient suffers a serious injury he/she is flown to Copenhagen for treatment – often taking at least six to seven hours. Accessing the challenging terrain can also be an issue. Laura and Terrance were able to learn more about this issue from a Greenlandic perspective, but were also able to gain an understanding of how these patients were cared for at the receiving end in Denmark, thanks to discussions with medical colleagues during their placement in Copenhagen. 

An absolute highlight of this experience has been immersing myself in another culture, and just experiencing the everyday lives of people in Copenhagen and Nuuk,” Laura said. “The University of Copenhagen and University of Greenland have really welcomed us and we’ve had such great access to people and learning experiences over these past few weeks.

Laura and Terrance in the ER

Thanks to an agreement signed earlier this year, Deakin University and University of Copenhagen will seek to double the amount of medical clinical placement exchanges between the institutions. As an outcome of Laura and Terrance’s visit to Nuuk, discussions are also underway, to enable 1-2 medical students to complete their placement in Greenland. 

For more information on Deakin’s Medical Program, please visit our website – deakin.edu.au/medicine

Story by Molly Roberts, Deakin Intern, Europe Office

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