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On the front line: studying medicine during a pandemic

Course: Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery
Institute: James Cook University
URL: Study at James Cook University in Queensland - JCU Australia
Location: Innisfail, Queensland

Every day Dinuka Arivarathna is experiencing the emerging challenges that come with fighting Australia’s COVID-19 pandemic. Coming from his home of Sri Lanka, Dinuka is currently studying a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery at James Cook University.

On the frontline

When I came to Australia to study, I never could have guessed that the skills I was learning would be used in a health crisis. Every day I am challenged to keep up with the changing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and while this is a difficult challenge to face, the fact that I can contribute to easing people’s struggles during this time is an incredible gift.

As a part of my final year studying a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery at James Cook University, I’ve been taking part in an extended placement at the Innisfail Hospital in Far North Queensland.

My confidence has grown immensely over the past few months thanks to the guidance of the clinical supervisors at the hospital. The wide range of medical cases I see every day at Innisfail has allowed me to learn a lot about tropical, rural and remote medicine, and has increased my clinical reasoning skills and clinical knowledge.

These are challenging circumstances to take my first steps in the medical field, but in many ways it has helped to make me a better, more confident doctor.


Global health education

As a part of my studies at James Cook University I took part in tutorials and workshops about global health and pandemic scenarios. I never could have anticipated that the knowledge would be an essential part of my day-to-day life in the near future.

While classroom learning can never fully prepare you for the real thing, that fact that I had some knowledge to build upon has been one of the things I’ve been grateful for during this time.

This classroom knowledge, combined with the financial and psychological support that James Cook University has provided international students throughout the pandemic, has made me feel confident and supported every step of the way.

Looking to the future

While it’s important to focus on what the world needs from us medical students right now, I am also looking forward to the future medical career that my studies and placement have prepared me for. After experiencing work at Innisfail, I’m excited by the idea of working in emergency. But I also enjoy working with children, so I could instead follow a career in pediatrics.

We will all get through this pandemic together, and it's our responsibility as individuals to contribute to the health and safety of our communities.

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