University of New England Joint Medical Program graduate Dr Erin Bourke was presented with three prestigious student excellence awards at a small ceremony held at the Tablelands Clinical School last month.
Erin received the Robert French Prize for surgery, the UNE Medical Student Association Award for Excellence (UNEMSA) and the School of Rural Medicine Head of School award for academic achievement at the event, which was more circumspect than those of previous years because of COVID-19.
The Robert French Prize for Surgery is awarded annually to a student who graduate with honours, who scores in the top 15 percent of graduates in their surgical course, and who demonstrates a commitment to a career in surgery by way of extracurricular activity such as anatomy demonstration or membership of the UNE student surgical society.
The UNEMSA award for Excellence recognises students who have demonstrated excellence while encountering hardship or adversity, or who have made a significant contribution to the course, fellow students or student life.
The School of Rural Medicine Head of School award is annually presented to the medical student who achieves the highest academic rank in the Bachelor of Medicine Joint Medical Program.
An Armidale local who had attended Ben Venue Primary School and Duval High School before enrolling with UNE to study medicine, Erin said she was pleasantly surprised by the recognition.
"I studied with a lot of very intelligent, gifted individuals, so it was a great honour to be selected for the awards," she said.
"I'm also grateful for the privilege to have worked with some brilliant clinicians who have inspired me in various ways, whether it be their excellent bedside manner, their clinical acumen, or their teaching ability."
Erin is currently completing six months residency at the Armidale hospital and believes studying and working regionally holds advantages for students.
"At UNE, my cohort was relatively small, the lecturers were all very approachable and I felt well supported in my learning," she said.
"The year I spent at the Tablelands Clinical School was particularly valuable - I received some quality teaching, with very regular opportunities to practice skills in the simulation centre. I feel that this teaching was one of the greatest advantages of being in Armidale.
"Working in a regional area has also been great. I have found Armidale Hospital to be a very positive, supportive work environment and I feel fortunate to have formed positive working relationships with many of the staff."
While Erin has not made any firm plans for her future she will spend 18 months working in various departments at Tamworth Base Hospital.
"There are many aspects of medicine that I find interesting and enjoyable, and every time somebody asks me what I would like to eventually specialise in, I think I say something different. My main priority for now is to focus on gaining experience and exposure across as many areas as possible," she said.
"Aside from not having yet decided on a preferred specialty, I love teaching, and hope to be involved in teaching in some respect throughout my career.
"I have been very lucky to have had some wonderful teachers and would love to be able to pass that on to others."