Rural scholar urges students to ‘give back’

Dr Martin Downs

Medical graduate and psychiatrist-in-training Dr Martin Downs counts himself among “the lucky ones” to have studied Medicine at the University of Adelaide.

The former Mt Gambier resident and Rural Bonded Scholar says the outstanding facilities, curricula and student culture at Adelaide both inspired and fulfilled him, leading to lifelong friendships and a willingness to “give back” to the institution where he received a first-class medical education.

Name: Dr Martin Downs

University degree details:

Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS), 2008

Details of any scholarships awarded:

Medical Rural Bonded (MRB) Scholarship.

Payment of $20,000 per year throughout the undergraduate degree with a commitment from me to service a rural area for six years upon becoming an independently practising specialist.

How did this scholarship assist you in your study?

Having grown up in country South Australia, moving to Adelaide was a challenging prospect practically, emotionally and financially.

The scholarship helped smooth the progress of the move from my home town of Mt Gambier to ‘the city’, where I could pursue my goal of studying Medicine.

Throughout the six years of my MBBS, the scholarship provided ongoing support and financial independence. The freedom from balancing part time work with all the opportunities that University provides certainly allowed me to immerse myself in the latter.

What have you been doing since graduation?

I have commenced specialist training in Psychiatry, now in my third year of the five-year program to become a Fellow of the RANZCP.

I have also had the opportunity to continue my association with the University as an Oral Assessor in the selection process for the next generation of medical students, as well as through teaching students in the clinical years of their degree.

Career highlights:

In 2012 I was fortunate to be invited to Israel, where I participated in some exciting new research towards the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), through pharmacologically assisted psychotherapy.

Teaching medical students has certainly been a highlight of the last two years working as a Psychiatric Registrar in the public hospital system. I was acknowledged for this role in 2011 and 2012 by receiving the ‘Derek Frewin AO Citation for Clinical Teaching’.

Why choose University of Adelaide to study?

Adelaide University has a prestigious history as an institution. The architectural landscape of stone buildings, magnificent trees merging with the Botanic Gardens and the banks of the Torrens makes it a beautiful environment to study.

This is combined with increasingly modern and technically savvy curricula and facilities, sspecially in the medical school, which remains one of the most progressive undergraduate medical degrees in the country.

What were the best parts of your degree at the University of Adelaide?

The culture among the students at Adelaide, particularly the medical school, was the most unique and inspiring aspect of my time on campus.

Having arrived from country SA, I found myself embraced by a University culture that was accepting, challenging, fulfilling and fun. I was surrounded by like-minded people, who possessed a diverse range of unique talents and interests. As a graduate I am now blessed with this group who I can now call my friends.

Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities?

The scholarship facilitated an opportunity to involve myself with a range of activities outside study,  including serving on committees within the Medical School and the Adelaide Medical Students Society (AMSS). In particular I was able to represent the AMSS on the Medical School’s Curriculum Committee in my final year.

My preferred activity was always something with an element of competition. I got involved in the debating team, the Cascade Cup team and the University ‘Blacks’ football team. University Games was always fun, but nothing comes close to the annual Australian Medical Students Association (AMSA) national convention.

Apart from your academic qualification, how did your experience at the University of Adelaide shape you as a person?

The experience expanded my mind, engendered a new element of creativity, instilled independence and confidence in my ability as a person and left me with a sense of optimism about the future that can only come from such a nurturing environment.

On reflection, the degree certainly shaped me dramatically as a person. When I commenced study in Medicine I planned on becoming an orthopaedic surgeon and at graduation, I left inspired to become a psychiatrist. A transformation I am grateful for!

Advice to incoming students to gain the most from their time at university

Get involved in everything you can and make the most of the opportunity as it will be over before you know it. Get your work done, but don’t worry too much about it because there is plenty of time to stress about that later down the track. Finally, give back to the institution and culture of the University wherever you can as it will become a part of you, a source of pride and be left in great shape for the next generation of scholars.

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