Meet Yong Deng – Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) student

Yong has just completed his first year of the Doctor of Medicine degree in Shepparton as part of the first cohort of the Rural Pathway program. Yong is passionate about inspiring young South Sudanese people to pursue a career in medicine and ensuring help is reached in even the furthest corners of Australia. Prior to embarking on his second year,  we spoke to Yong  about his time so far with the Rural Clinical School and what advice he has for the new cohort of students arriving at the end of January.

Yong Deng, a South Sudanese refugee and pharmacist, studying at the University of Melbourne Rural Clinical School in Shepparton.

Prior to moving to Shepparton to commence his studies towards a career as a rural doctor, Yong was working in Melbourne as a pharmacist. But behind his credentials is a story of overcoming adversity. Originally from South Sudan, Yong spent several years in a Kenyan refugee camp before moving to Australia in 2009. It was Yong’s experiences as a child which led him to study medicine. Yong saw first-hand the effects of living in a developing nation and the inadequate access to medical care. With only two clinics in the refugee camp to service a population of over 7,000 people - it was by chance that he survived whooping cough at only two weeks of age. His younger sister later passed away at six months of age from the same bacterial infection.

From his lived experience, Yong feels it’s his duty of care to deliver quality healthcare in areas of needs across the globe including rural and remote Australia.

After graduating from pharmacy studies at La Trobe University in Bendigo in 2016, Yong was accepted into the Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) through a partnership between the University of Melbourne and La Trobe University. This pathway is designed for students from a rural background who are committed to undertaking their medical education wholly in a rural setting and becoming a part of rural and regional Australia's medical workforce.

Fifteen places are reserved each intake for graduates of La Trobe University’s Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (Medical) degree, based in Bendigo and Wodonga. A further fifteen places are available for students who have completed an undergraduate degree and are able to demonstrate their rural origins.

Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway)

Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) students at the University of Melbourne, Shepparton Campus.

How was your first year studying the Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) in Shepparton?

In retrospect my first year of medicine was tough however, at the same time it was exhilarating. To see myself and others moving closer to fulfilling our goals of becoming doctors one day was worth all the hard work and dedication.

What have been some of your highlights so far?

Meeting so many incredible people and getting to explore Shepparton. I got to enjoy dinners with new friends and went bowling with local doctors, our lecturers, clinical educators and the university staff. To top it all, the Outlook Student Rural Health Club organised a skiing trip (Alpine Showcase) – it’s still one of the most memorable experiences that I am super grateful for. I also enjoyed living in a beautiful and affordable accommodation through the University of Melbourne. The new MD teaching building is remarkable although we never took the advantage of the Sectra Virtual Dissection Table more than we did with the outdoor basketball court!

What have been some of the challenges so far?

Aside from the pandemic and flooding which interrupted our learning, the first year of the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD1) is content heavy and if you haven’t got your learning techniques right, you will struggle. Treating MD1 like a full-time job was the way out for me. I still endeavoured to do things that I love; spent quality time with my family and friends, attended church service, produced my YouTube content and worked on the weekends. I had to be honest with myself and acknowledge that going back to university after seven years was hard.

Upon reflection I had to strategise, plan and prioritise accordingly. Moreover, if I didn’t have my support system, the volume of work required in medical school would have consumed me mentally. Learning anatomy for the first time was also very challenging for the first seven weeks of university so I had to cut down on working every weekend after the first semester. Having peer and academic tutors was also helpful.

What are you most looking forward to for your second year of the Doctor of Medicine (Rural Pathway) degree? 

I am looking forward learning as much knowledge as I can from the doctors, pharmacists, nurses, allied health and other hospital staff and then applying this knowledge in real-time. I look forward to all the other [placement] rotations but more prominently the surgical rotation. I have heard so many great things about the teaching at Northeast Health Wangaratta and I can’t wait to kick-off my learning experience there with the other amazing students that I’ve met and formed friendships with in my first year.

What advice do you have for the new cohort of students arriving in January 2023?

Make MD1 your priority, be serious and grind like a Roman *Marcus Aurelius’ voice*.

If I were to do MD1 again, I would jot down all the topics that are listed in the bridging modules, orient myself and start planning the point of attack for topics I have little to no background in. The resources I would use will depend on interest and my learning style. Ninja Nerd is great tool for complicated topics (I recommend you watch the videos at double speed to save time). Other learning tools include; Osmosis (simplifies concepts – can be too simplistic sometimes), Amboss (my favourite to be honest, you can get clinical and MD1s love digging themselves in a rabbit hole), OnlineMedED (great for clinical learning and CSL case however it does come with a price and you need to allow enough time to cover the content), and finally, ANKI which I didn’t get to use as much as I would have love to. Retrospectively, it would have been useful for some anatomical science learning where learning by repetition was necessary.

When the first semester kicks-off, ask many questions, understand your learning style and seek help to improve yourself and others around you. Whatever you do, try to be a decent human being and be respectful to everyone.

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