The first students to complete the University of NSW's full six-year medical program in Port Macquarie are celebrating the end of their studies.
Their history-making achievement comes after the university decided in 2016 to make Port Macquarie the first regional centre in NSW to offer a full undergraduate medical program.
The university previously provided four years of its medical program through the Rural Clinical Campus.
Fast forward to 2022 and 11 students are celebrating the completion of their full medical program.
Another five students, who joined the cohort part-way through their studies, rounded out the 2022 graduating class.
A celebration on Friday, November 18 included speeches, presentation of the graduating class and a cake cutting.
Mary Bouwer from Port Macquarie was prepared to move away to study medicine but the full medical program in Port Macquarie came along at the right time.
"It was definitely the best option for me," she said.
"It has taken a big financial burden off my family, and having a small student cohort, I built friendships for life."
Dr Bouwer, who will complete her internship at Wagga Wagga, hopes to become a rural generalist doctor.
Emma Watson studied her entire medical degree at Port Macquarie. She was familiar with the area after holidays here, toured the Port Macquarie Shared Health Research and Education Campus, liked what she saw and the rest is history.
"It has been a wild journey," Dr Watson said.
"It has been very challenging at times but I think that has forced us to really grow personally and professionally."
Dr Watson is looking forward to her internship at John Hunter Hospital. She wants to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynaecology, and continue to be involved in medical education.
Former Lyne MP Rob Oakeshott was among the the first cohort to study the full medical program at Port Macquarie.
"I wouldn't be able to do it unless it [the full program] was here," he said.
Dr Oakeshott's next step is an internship at Port Macquarie Base Hospital and Kempsey District Hospital, with an ultimate plan to go into general practice.
Sally Boardman spent the last two years of her studies in Port Macquarie to gain clinical experience in a rural setting.
She said it was a great community and the university had been supportive.
Dr Boardman is headed to Wagga Wagga for her internship. She wants to pursue a career in paediatrics and public health.
Sam Browning studied in Port Macquarie for four-and-a-half years.
"I wanted to escape Sydney and wanted to be in a rural area where I felt there was a greater opportunity for both medical experience in the hospital but also just for the general lifestyle," he said.
"I've really loved my time here and it has really set me up for where I would like to go in the future."
Dr Browning is bound for Darwin for his internship.
University of NSW Associate Dean Rural Health Professor Tara Mackenzie said the full medical program at Port Macquarie had been immensely successful, not just academically, but the students became part of the community.
The medical program offered in Port Macquarie is identical to the Sydney degree.
"They have the opportunity to do a world-class degree in a regional environment, and at the end of the day, this is all about our communities," Professor Mackenzie said.
UNSW is also offering end-to-end medical training at Wagga Wagga.
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