MAKING the decision to stay in Mildura and practice medicine was an easy one for Georgia and Matthew Spence

    The Monash University medical graduates have embraced the region since being forced to lock down in Mildura because of COVID-19 earlier this year.

    Initially, the pair had expected to spend a six week block, working and rotating through the Mildura Base Public Hospital (MBPH) as part of their final year of their course, instead it has turned into 28 weeks.

    “It was during our second rotation that the freeze happened – I acutally had rotation one and two in Mildura which means I have been here in Mildura all year which has been great,” Matthew said.

    “Georia had rotation one in Bendigo and then came up here (Mildura) on rotation two.”

    Instead of dwelling on their siutation, Georgia and Matthew used their time to embrace the region, explore its diversity and immerse themselves in the ommunity, joining a local church group and getting involved in various sporting clubs.

    “We definitely fell in love with the community and just saw a group of people who were really passionate about building up the community, looking after people both inside the hospital and outside,” said Georgia.

    “We saw a lot of doctors coming and going and hearing them talk about things they would like to improve, but then heading off again and we had a real sense of wanting to stay and help those improvements unfold or be part of the transition of this process over to the public system.

    “Its just really exciting to stick around and get involved in the community and become more embedded.”

    The past six months has not only seen the pair make some major decisions about their professional careers, personally it has also been a big year, marrying just over two months ago in a low key celebration, brought together by their Mildura community, again forced on them because of the COVID-19 restrictions. 

    And while the pair may not have planned things as they have evolved, they wouldn’t change anything, committed now to making a difference to the level of health care provided in this region, while very much involving themselves in community life. 

    “To be in a position like ours to say there are some issues here and we are in a position to something about them,” Matthew said.

    “For us we have a really great support in the community from people encouraging and supporting us both in the medical field and for all of life, particularly the support of Associate Professor Fiona Wright and the whole staff at Mildura School of Rural Health. 

    “It has been a very easy decision for us to know this is somewhere where we can use the skills we have been taught and a lot of those skills have been taught to us by Mildura staff members.”

    For Georgia and Matthew, they identified early during their time in Mildura that if they were going to get the most out of their stay, they needed to become connected with the local community.

    “It is easy when you are so busy at work to just go home and keep to yourself and stay within your own little bubble,” Matthew said.

    “We decided pretty early on we wanted to become part of the comunity and explore everything the region had to offer. 

    “Part of that was getting involved in different sporting and community groups.  Last weekend we went camping with some friends we have met since moving here – it was just amazing”.

    Georgia added that – “The danger when you start getting involved in the community, is that you will fall in love with it (Mildura) and you will want to stay and devastate your family back seven hours away”.

    Rural life for Matthew is nothing new, having grown up in Wangaratta in the Nort East of victoria, but for Georgia it has been a big shift, trading the pristine beaches of the Mornington Peninsula for the tranquility of rural life. 

    “I’m from the Mornington Peninsula originally so I’ve traded those beautiful sparkling beaches for the beautiful Murray (River) and I have just loved the transition – we’ve loved having that water front at our back door and the markets when they were a thing and just how peaceful and kind everyone is around here – that is definitely a big thing for me not coming from a rural bakground,” said Georgia. 

    Professionally, Georgia and Matthew, have different interests, Matthew interested in pursuing a career in mental health, while Georgia’s focus is on general practice, paediatrics and palliative care.

    They both agree, spending an extended period in a rural hospital has provided them with opportunities they would not have experienced had they decided to do their roration in one of the large metropolitan hospitals.

    “Mildura is known for lots of hands on experience and developing your independence, but in a really supported way – I think that is what a lot of students who have been in a lot of other hospitals took from their rotations here,” Matthew said. 

    “We have been very spoilt in our course having spent all of our rotations at Bendigo, Mildura and Swan Hill.

    “The facilities they have are really top notch, particularly the simulations they run and the amount of procedural skills that are taught which are as close to the real thing and having the supervised practice in the hospital has been invaluable.”

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