Gisborne’s Bridget Fallon and Macedon’s Cassandra Hocking will start at a new Murray-Darling rural medical program in Victoria to tackle the nation-wide rural doctor shortage.

The 15 regional students accepted into the course will commence an end-to-end medical program next year, involving seven years of training at La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne – at three regional centres in Victoria.

Students who successfully complete a three-year undergraduate Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) course at La Trobe’s Bendigo or Albury-Wodonga campus will be accepted into the University of Melbourne’s Doctor of Medicine postgraduate program in Shepparton.

Ms Fallon said she was sitting in a cafe when she found out she had been accepted into the program.

“I was so shocked that I was one of the 15. Cassandra and I have been at school together since grade one, it’ll be great to take the next seven years at university together,” Ms Fallon said.

“I’m really looking forward to anatomy classes in second year – we haven’t the opportunity to do things like that in high school.

“Orientation begins next week. It’s the first time the 15 of us will be together – it’s a bit intimidating but I’m excited to get into it and make new friends.

”Ms Fallon has noticed the need for more rural doctors in the region.

“I have a family doctor that I visit, but you need to book in weeks in advance,” Ms Fallon said.

“If something comes up unexpectedly, it’s hard to get in unless I travel from Gisborne to Sunbury.

”Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Medical) Course co-ordinator Dr Cristina Keightley said the university went through a rigorous selection process to select the right students for the seven-year program.

“We conducted multiple mini-interviews with numerous questions relating to suitability for the course,” Dr Keightley said.

“We hoped they could strongly demonstrate connections to communities and intent to practice in the regions.

“It was evident with student’s answers as to how they see the issues. They are aware that it’s very hard to access medical care because of distances and shortages of doctors.

“They previously haven’t had the role models in the communities to show the possibilities, so hopefully this can create that.”