Pandemic no barrier to medical student

Posted on in Alumni

Olivia Eade (class of 2018) is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Tasmania’s Rural Clinical School based at Burnie.

What are you currently studying and at which university?
I’m currently studying Medicine in my fourth year at UTAS’ Rural Clinical School, which is based in Burnie. This year involves mainly clinical placements across the Northwest Coast in hospitals such as the Northwest Regional in Burnie and Mersey in Latrobe, as well as primary care placements in towns scattered across the north of the state.

Why did you choose this pathway?
I was always really interested in science at school and am an inquisitive person. As I gained experience in administering first aid through surf lifesaving, I really enjoyed the idea of something exciting, hands-on and involving patients that combined my love for learning, and I found medicine to be the best fit.

How did you find the transition from school to university life?
The transition from school to university definitely had its challenges. Initially, I found it difficult to deal with a more intense study load and being in a new environment where I had to make new friends and be more outgoing, in comparison to the very comfortable environment of St Mary’s College. I’m having to continually adapt to find a good work-life balance and maintain my studies, while at the same time not letting myself get too burnt out. The disruption to learning due to COVID-19 made it difficult to separate work from home, where I was often on the computer watching lectures for countless hours a day. Being at UTAS, I was lucky that we rapidly returned to face-to-face learning and that most things are relatively back to ‘normal’.

What are your career aspirations for the future?
My hope is to graduate Medicine to become an intern somewhere exciting, perhaps in a rural community. Eventually, I would like to become a general practitioner or gynaecologist, but the area I want to go into tends to change all the time as I start learning about different fields.

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has, and is continuing to have, a profound impact on people’s lives and livelihoods. What affect has the pandemic had on your current studies, and how have you overcome these challenges?
COVID-19 has presented many challenges for my studies. During the major lockdown in 2020, all my teaching and learning moved online, including dissections and other practical, hands-on activities which were reduced to Powerpoints. As second year was very content heavy, I spent over five hours a day watching lectures and ‘attending’ tutorials that would usually be held in person. I was lucky though that as soon as the initial lockdown period lifted, all the practical components, including placements, returned to face-to-face teaching. This is my second year doing placements and fortunately, unlike other medical schools on the mainland, I haven’t had to miss out on them due to COVID-19.

The pandemic also made it challenging to manage screen fatigue and the risk of burning out. I try to overcome this by making sure I get outside a lot, exercise and go into uni or to the library to study. This, however, continues to be an ongoing struggle for me and something I am striving to become better at.

Thinking back to your years as a school student, what is your strongest memory of your time at St Mary’s College?
My strongest memory of my time at St Mary’s was Year 11 and 12. These were my most exciting years at school where I got to study more interesting subjects and had the most fun with my friends. Additionally, it was the time where I was the most involved with the College community through extracurricular activities such as band and sports, as well as through groups like the Prefects and Vinnies.

What advice would you give to current students?
My advice to current students is to not take yourself too seriously and give everything a go. In my younger years of high school, I didn’t participate as much as I should have in extra-curricular activities as I was worried about what people thought about me. Eventually, however, I found that the best things I did at school were those that I put effort into and that weren’t necessarily the ‘coolest’. I think it all comes down to having a good attitude and being willing to take every opportunity that is presented to you, as you never know what could turn out to be something really amazing.

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