- Student type: Domestic
- Degree type: Double Degree
- Degree(s): Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
Bachelor of Medicine & Bachelor of Surgery, Bachelor of Medical Science (Honours), Master of Medicine
Dr John Clark has received the prestigious Gates-Cambridge scholarship to undertake a PhD in Paediatrics at the University of Cambridge. Recipients of this scholarship are considered the most academically outstanding and socially committed postgraduates.
Before receiving this scholarship, John was undertaking his clinical fellowship at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, Scotland. Similar to rural Australia, remoteness is a challenge for patients. Many of the islands are only accessible by aircraft in emergency situations. Critically ill children are transported to either Glasgow or to the intensive care unit in Edinburgh.
“My research will have a direct impact on how we care for the sickest children in Australia”, says John. “Through my career I aim to contribute to providing expert care to critically unwell children, based on the best available evidence and research.”
A passion for rural health
Growing up on a farm in north-west Victoria, John’s interest in a medical career stemmed from having witnessed life and death and his curiosity about the functioning of the human body.
He was very aware of his community’s major challenge of retaining doctors. They were often recruited from far afield international locations. Additionally, rural patients travelled extensive distances to access medical care but still experienced poorer health outcomes than those in city locations.
When deciding where to study, “Monash was a clear fit for me as the newly developed extended rural cohort program built community immersion into the curriculum.”
The university’s interest in improving health outcomes in rural communities as well as embedding the community’s values into its culture is what also appealed to John. “I learnt that I had a unique background to share and this was something I could contribute to Monash, and later the health workforce. I encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider applying to university, particularly medical school, as you will be welcomed and an important part of our colourful community.”
John’s leadership qualities emerged early on. He became president of WILDFIRE, the rural and Indigenous student’s health society at Monash. He was also elected to represent all Australian health students on the National Rural Health Students’ Network. “In these roles I was proud to help improve rural and Indigenous health in a number of ways - at a grassroots level through visiting schools, and providing education to health students, as well as working on federal health policy.”
John spent 11 years studying his three degrees at Monash. During this time he studied across 9 different locations and 3 continents, all within the Monash medicine program. He never would have imagined this given his family had never travelled abroad.
“These experiences gave me the skills and confidence to step up to an international career and provided me with a more mature approach to global health.”
“My medical training at Monash provided me with a framework to manage situations of uncertainty and the ability to adapt to the surprises and challenges that come with working with children.”
“I learnt how to locate and apply the latest medical evidence to the problems that I encounter at the bedside, and the professional qualities that the 21st century doctor requires. We need health professionals to keep abreast of rapidly expanding scientific information, and partner with families to make the best possible healthcare decisions for their children based on this information.”
“My Monash degree helped me consider the impact on the family and community, and how we can consider a child’s development, understanding and abilities in this context.”
Trust your instincts
John’s advice to current medical students is to “trust your gut instinct on the wards. If something seems not-quite-right when you have reviewed a patient, this is probably the case so ask for help. The respiratory rate in adult patients never lies, and the absence of play in children is a worrying diagnostic sign. The nurses are your saving grace and will help you through unimaginable crises. They’ve seen it all before.”
“To all Monash students – I encourage you to reach out and seek support and advice from the alumni, and other professionals in your area of study. You will be amazed how much everyone wants to help you if you simply ask.”
Watch John's story: