Pathways in medicine

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 23-Nov-2017

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Tim Chimunda is creating links. Photo: ANDREW PERRYMAN
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Tim Chimunda thinks ADHD traits can be put to good use and as the new director of the north-west Victoria regional medical training hub, he’s out to prove it. 

To his work as an intensive care specialist at Bendigo Health, he adds a family, a full agenda of networking and study, and his new job with Monash University supporting new training pathways to keep junior doctors working in the region.

 – Report by Helen Cronin

Regional pathways

Monash has been training students in Bendigo for 25 years. Many have chosen to come back and work. 

Others find it hard even if they want to stay as training opportunities in their chosen specialty often aren’t available here, so they go back to Melbourne and often don’t return. 

Dr Chimunda’s role is to create links and clear pathways for students who want to stay right through their undergraduate years into specialty training opportunities. 

He’ll be working with local health services, medical colleges, government and community stakeholders to develop training positions in areas of specialist need and supporting those services to develop the education and supervision skills they’ll need to nurture students and junior doctors. 

The new training centre that he heads up is based at Monash University in Bendigo and the work extends up to Monash’s training site in Mildura. 

The centre itself is an expansion of Monash’s existing Commonwealth-funded role hosting medical, nursing and allied health students on rural placements to make sure rural and regional Australia has the health workforce it needs. 

From Zimbabwe to Australia

Dr Chimunda has wide experience working in regional Australia. 

“I’ve been everywhere,” he said. 

“I feel like the song.” 

But he started his working life in Zimbabwe where he was born. 

For political reasons he found he had to leave the country which had become very difficult. 

Through the efforts of his patients he finally arrived in Australia in 2005. 

Australia’s training requirements saw him travelling up and down the east coast working and training in emergency medicine and intensive care – and discovering an interest in medical education. 

“During that time I was looking after the international medical graduates and working with AHPRA Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency to get them enmeshed into the Australian environment,” Dr Chimunda said.

“I’ve been doing that for the last 10 years with a lot of IMGs that would come across. I was active with assisting them with their Australian Medical Council exams.” 

He was also working with Australian medical students as a lecturer with the University of Queensland and later with the University of Melbourne. 

A place in the ecosystem

But it was while studying for a postgraduate critical care fellowship certificate in intensive care medicine at the University of Toronto in Canada that Dr Chimunda discovered his other passion: research. An important aspect of Monash’s work, Dr Chimunda also sees research as another means of getting students and young doctors engaged with regional centres like Bendigo. 

“If you join a new ecosystem and it’s a food chain, you need to know where you fit in,” Dr Chimunda said.

“And if there’s no space created for you, there’s no fodder… you’ll starve out and therefore you’ll move on just like a herd on the savannah.”

But as the owner of a clinical research project while a member of a clinical team, he suggests junior doctors are more likely to stay. 

“When you feel that you are just there as a paper handler or clerk, there is no pull to keep you there. When you are valued, you feel appreciated, you feel like you belong and therefore you can visualise yourself staying longer,” Dr Chimunda said.

Dr Chimunda cited the student who has been working with the ICU team. 

“As a result of the relationships that we’ve built up with her, she now wants to do ICU or emergency. Now the question is asked: How do I create a pathway for her to stay, train and then go and have some tertiary time and then come back to us – because that doesn’t exist [at the moment]?” 

That’s precisely the challenge the regional training hubs have been set up to meet, building on Monash’s long-time work introducing students to rural practice. 

Bringing two “kingdoms” together

Dr Chimunda doesn’t see his roles at the hospital and university as separate, but rather intertwined and interlinked approaches to the same goal: keeping doctors by training them in the region from undergraduate to specialist. 

And he’s working to bring the two institutions closer together through this relationship. 

“I’m like a hybrid child married from one king to another to ensure the kingdom’s longevity,” he said.

In the meantime, he and his wife are expecting another child and looking to build in Junortoun. 

For a few years at least, Tim is committed to Bendigo, but the frenetic pace fuelled by those ADHD traits is unlikely to slow. 

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