Doctor of Medicine studies at Flinders University Victor Harbor campus inspires Michael Hood to call the Fleurieu home

Serving the community: Medicine student Michael Hood and his family have made the Fleurieu home. Michael will have three of his fourth year placements on the south coast.

Serving the community: Medicine student Michael Hood and his family have made the Fleurieu home. Michael will have three of his fourth year placements on the south coast.

With 12 months remaining on his Doctor of Medicine studies, Michael Hood and his family have made the Fleurieu home.

After spending his third year rural placement in the area and studying at the Victor Harbor campus on Bay Road, the region has picked up a new doctor.

Growing up on a farm near Yackandandah in rural Victoria, medicine was a childhood dream, but not Michael's first career choice.

His pathway was then inspired by the relational and compassionate care provided to Michael's family by their local GP.

"He was a subtle yet strong influence on me," Michael said.

Like many medical students, Michael's journey has been diverse. He initially studied nursing in Adelaide and following graduation, gained extensive hospital experience, including working in the Intensive Care Unit.

Michael enjoys challenges and building his skills, so it was no surprise to his family and friends that 18 months after graduating, he and his wife Emily headed off for an eye-opening experience overseas, doing primary healthcare work in a remote refugee camp along the Thailand/Burma border for five months.

Following their return to Adelaide, Michael was inspired to study a Master's degree in International Health, with the goal of improving his ability to provide culturally appropriate health-care to indigenous and international populations in rural and remote settings.

"From childhood I have really been inspired by the accounts of remote health care workers and their rich adventures providing medical care on the frontline," he said.

"I always thought wow, these people are having some great adventures and making a real difference."

A small hospital in Barham, rural New South Wales, was the next opportunity for Michael to grow his skills.

The nature of the work in a rural setting and appreciating working alongside some amazing doctors and nurses taught him a great deal about rural medicine.

"Seeing first-hand the impact of the rural GP in their community encouraged me to take that big step and apply to study medicine," Michael said.

Keen to return to South Australia so their growing family could be closer to extended family, as well as the appeal of Flinders University's Parallel Rural Community Curriculum program were deciding factors for Michael.

"I knew that doing clinical placement in a rural setting would provide more opportunity for 'hands on' experience as you are really included as a team member whether you're at the GP clinic or local hospital," he said.

"There has been great variety and diversity in the presentations that I have encountered in the GP and hospital settings which has helped prompt me to regularly go back over and review a broader range of topics than I perhaps would have if I was in a specialist unit for 10 weeks at a time."

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive, but Michael found Flinders University staff were supportive, including the clinical supervisors who helped students make the most of their situation without having to cease placement.

"It provided a unique and rich opportunity to not only learn and experience the health care system's response to this evolving pandemic and cemented my desire to pursue a career in rural medicine."

With the demands of his studies, Michael's wife Emily has been an immense support.

"It is definitely a 'team effort' to be able to balance all our family commitments and maintain good relationships with each other and our children, all whilst completing medical school. But it's probably no different to the challenges most young families face."

Living on the south coast this year, Michael has enjoyed surfing in precious down time and as a family, they have been completing sections of the Heysen trail between Cape Jervis and Encounter Bay (they're currently up to Tunkalilla Beach).

Michael will commute to Flinders University next year and will also have three of his fourth year placements on the south coast.

In the future, Michael would like to practice as a rural GP, specialising in emergency medicine and living in a coastal rural setting with his family.

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