Medical student who found her passion in rural health receives national award

University of Melbourne final year medical student Jasraaj Singh has received the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) Medical Student of the Year Award for 2022.

Jas SinghFinal year medical student Jasraaj Singh (left) receiving the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) Medical Student of the Year Award on Friday 14th of October.

Ms Singh was presented with the award at the Rural Medicine Australia conference dinner in Canberra on Friday night. The award is given annually to a medical student displaying a passion and strong commitment to Rural Medicine.

Born in Nambour on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Ms Singh grew up on a macadamia nut farm at nearby Didillibah. While at Nambour State High School, she undertook voluntary work in the paediatrics ward at Nambour Hospital, ultimately sparking her interest in becoming a doctor.

As a student on the Extended Rural Cohort at the University’s Medical School, Ms Singh has undertaken all her medical training in rural areas since the second year of her medical degree, including placements in Shepparton, Wangaratta, Ballarat and currently Bendigo.

Along the way, she has also undertaken additional placements in East Arnhem Land and Cairns. After her graduation this year, Ms Singh will commence work as a medical intern in Cairns in 2023.

Ms Singh said she loves the variety of work offered in rural medicine, as well as the sense of community.

“Being a country bumpkin at heart and having a genuine passion for rural, remote and First Nations health, I am really thrilled to receive this award,” she said.

“I went into medical school thinking I was going to be a neurosurgeon, but I was lucky enough to get some awesome rural experiences in some amazing communities and have really found my passion in rural medicine.

“I have had the opportunity to meet incredible and inspiring people, undertake hands-on and practical clinical placements, become part of rural and remote communities across Australia, and develop my clinical and life experiences along the way.

“It has been such a rewarding, eye-opening and exciting adventure – I strongly believe all healthcare students should be undertaking rural placements in some way, shape or form.”

Ms Singh said a placement she undertook in Nhulunbuy, East Arnhem Land, in 2020 gave her a deep appreciation for the “incredible skill set” of generalist doctors working in remote communities.

“My placement in East Arnhem Land really changed the trajectory of my life,” she said. “I became hooked on rural and remote medicine and realised that in these settings I got a much deeper understanding of medicine.

“I aim to challenge the common misconception that all the excitement and ‘real medicine’ happens in the city – because the country is definitely where it's at.”

RDAA President Dr Megan Belot said it was Ms Singh’s passion for rural medicine that really stood out.

“Jas has made it her mission to actively seek out additional rural and remote placements, and to truly immerse herself in each of the rural communities in which she has trained,” Dr Belot said.

“At the same time, she has held numerous volunteer roles that ultimately help others, including President of her university’s rural health club, as well as President of the Surgical Students Society of Melbourne and Chair of its Rural Committee.

“Those who nominated Jas for this award spoke of her kind-hearted nature, her exemplary approach as a medical student, and the fact that she is a fierce ambassador for rural health, as well as for the health of First Nations people, and of marginalised groups both locally and internationally.”

Professor Jane Gunn, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, congratulated Ms Singh on the award.

“Jas’ enthusiasm and commitment to rural medicine is truly inspiring,” Professor Gunn said.

“Having exceptional medical professionals in our rural and remote communities is vital and I’m delighted to see one of our students not only excel but actively seek out this career path. Ensuring Australians have access to high quality healthcare, no matter where they live, is immensely important.”

This is the second consecutive year a University of Melbourne student has received the Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) Medical Student of the Year Award, after it was awarded to Indira Barrow in 2021.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia’s (RDAA) Medical Student of the Year Winner - Jas Singh

RDAA Medical Student of the Year 2022, Jasraaj Singh (left), pictured with fellow student and 2021 awardee, Indira Barrow, (right) at Tennant Creek Hospital in the Northern Territory