Sydney Medical School, Sydney (Australia)

Sydney Harbour

Impressions of Sydney

  • Li Chen - medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2013
  • Fei Yudong - medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2013
  • Sharrif Musoke - medical student from Makerere University, Uganda undertook a Clinical placement at Concord Clinical School, University of Sydney in 2013
  • Du Fengzhou – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2010
  • Jin Shi – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2010
  • Zhang Shu-Yi – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a Clinical placement at the University of Sydney in 2010
  • Zhou Wei – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a Clinical placement at the University of Sydney in 2010
  • Li Lin – medical student from Fudan University, China, undertook a Clinical placement at the University of Sydney in 2010
  • Regine Krechowicz – medical student from McMaster University (Canada), undertook an elective at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2010
  • Scott Kramer – medical student from Cornell (USA), undertook an elective at Westmead Hospital and in Broken Hill Hospital in 2010
  • Rebecca Skillen – medical student from McMaster University (Canada), undertook an elective at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2009

Li Chen - medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2013

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Sydney is an amazing city and it is a great chance to Sydney in winter, especially to be an exchange student to Sydney Uni. I love the life style in this country. People here live a healthy and relax life with good environment around. There are joggers everywhere from day to night. Australians love exercise so much.

The teaching method of medicine here is different from what we have in china. In my school, we put more emphasis on lectures and we have lectures every day. However, in Sydney Uni, we only have lectures on Monday and Wednesday. Sometimes those last for 8 hours a day, with a lunch break only. But the teachers here are so excellent. I like principal teacher– Michael J Field most. He gave me a lecture that I won’t forget in my lifetime.

The PBL class here is more relax maybe because there is no teacher present at the beginning. They help to improve my ear a lot for listening to more than 3 different accent at the same time. And the important role that the leader play in this class really impress me. The group of clinic practice is smaller here than in shanghai. I have more opportunities to talk to the patients and communicate with the tutor. And Doctor Chapman, my tutor, is a very warm-hearted lady. She teaches me a lot about history taking and clinic method.

Five weeks is not a long time at all. But with the help of students, teachers and Fiona, I think I have discovered the tenderness and beauty of Sydney.


Fei Yudong - medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2013

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Time flies. I have just finished my exchange program for renal-urology course in University of Sydney for a month and now back in Shanghai Jiaotong University in China. I appreciate this exchange program a lot, because we are allowed to have the same schedule as the local medical students. We listen to lectures together, learn physical examination and inquiry on clinic day and have PBL discussion in the same group with local students. During this course, I have a better understanding of how the medical students are studying in the university instead of just having some specially selected courses.

For me, my favorite day in a week is Thursday because we have clinic day in hospitals. Most exchange students will go to RPAH(Royal Prince Alfred Hospital) and it`s just next to University of Sydney. In clinic day we have three sections, firstly physical examination, then inquiry, and some medical practice such as inserting a catheter. It was really a difficult time for me in the first week because I wasn`t able to come up with the proper words in English and I could hardly keep up with the discussion. However, with the help from local students and my effort, it was much better in the next weeks. I really enjoy analyzing and solving problems with the knowledge that I`ve just learned. I suppose it`s the style of teaching that emphasizes on applying the knowledge into practice and we can have a better understanding in this procedure.

By the way, it`s really a perfect chance to improve speaking English during the exchange program. The local students are very warm-hearted and are always ready to help you. You can have lunch with them and join them in the party. Staying in a homestay is another way to make improvements. You will have dinner with the hosts and discuss for a variety of matters ranging from lifestyles to social events. Just try to make as much communications as you can!


Sharrif Musoke - medical student from Makerere University, Uganda undertook a Clinical placement at Concord Clinical School, University of Sydney in 2013

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I still remember 2nd march 2013, the day I received the exciting news. Jane and I had been chosen to go for the 6 week electives placement at Concord Repatriation General Hospital, courtesy of Sydney University. We chose to do Geriatrics for 4 weeks and ophthalmology for 2 weeks. The major objective for the placement was to observe and pick a leaf on how the first world health systems like the one in Sydney work. Over the course of our placement, I have enriched my knowledge on the different methods of doing things in and outside hospital. I have appreciated the craftsmanship of Australians ranging from the health system, transport, architecture, social system, to the steps of the Grand Canyon walkways and awed at the beautiful nature and warm personalities of the people. I won't forget the unforgiving coldness though, but that was also taken care of thanks to a few friends I met.

Specific objectives

  • To compare the history taking and physical examination methods to what we do at home
  • To learn the appropriate investigations and their interpretations for different diagnoses
  • To learn about the different ways of management of various conditions in the different rotations we went
  • To find out the common conditions and their risk factors in the relevant rotations
  • To learn from the health system employed in Australia
  • To learn the overall patient care methods in order to put a “personal touch "to medicine
  • To meet and interact with other Medical students

By moving with specialists, registrars and interns on ward rounds and sitting in during various clinics, we learnt a great deal how to handle patients, collect history and do physical exams. We gathered history from patients and examined them. We then discussed our findings with our supervisors and other specialists that were available. We discussed the various investigations that were or would have been done for each patient we presented. We then would talk about their immediate and long term problems and how they should be managed. Here we appreciated the multidisciplinary approach towards the management of the patients for example geriatricians would ask for consults of physiotherapists, dieticians, social workers, occupational and speech therapists depending on the individual needs of the patients.

The health system in Australia is very different from that of Uganda starting from the paging system of communication, to how much emphasis is put on social and family history of the patient and the whole idea of disposable theatre apparel was so new to us. I liked the way the doctors handled the patients for example engaging them in light banter, trying to explain to them in the simplest way possible and light touch which made them feel welcome. One patient appreciated this, “Do you do this for all patients?” she asked Dr. Georgina, an ophthalmology registrar. I may not take back home the cool equipment I saw here, but this is certainly a skill I would like to hold onto for the rest of my life.

We would join the lectures every Friday meant for the students at concord clinical school. Here, we met new people and made connections. I’m pretty sure we convinced a few of them to come to Mulago Hospital in December through sharing our experiences. We also met and interacted with students from other countries, also on electives program. Most of them were from Germany and Denmark. It was an enriching experience as we shared medical and cultural experiences.

Over the weekends, we visited a number of awesome places together or individually including the Grand Canyon, Blue Mountains, Manly and Bondi beaches, Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Newtown cinema among other places in the city. We also were invited by different families for dinner. Because it was cold some weekends, we had to stay in. The people of Sydney are very warm and welcoming. On a number of occasions, people offered to help us out with directions, how to buy train tickets, which bus to take and those little things that matter. The transport system was at first hard to comprehend, but it became unproblematic with time. The idea of Google maps and GPS was embraced.

We would like to thank:

  • The University of Sydney for making this program happen through its funding of our travel, accommodation and upkeep.
  • Professor Robert Cumming for bridging our two universities, making this program possible and checking up on our progress at the hospital.
  • The team at Sydney University including Mr. Jason Dibbs, Mr. Esmond Esguerra and Ms. Fiona Thien that guided us since the start of processing of the Visas and continually availing their help after we arrived in Sydney, we are eternally indebted to you.
  • Dr.Vasikaran Naganathan and Dr. Domit Azar, our supervisors in Geriatrics and Ophthalmology respectively for their continuous guidance during the respective rotations.
  • The whole family at Concord Clinical School and the hospital that made us feel welcome. We are grateful.
  • Wendy Lac, electives officer at Concord Clinical School. Thank you for the help with the helpful guidance with the necessary requirements, making us feel at home and always playing the nurturing role whenever we needed solace. You are irreplaceable.

Du Fengzhou – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China) undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2010

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"Thanks for the placement of Global Health Office, I think this exchange program helped me to become a good doctor in the future. Firstly, I learned the importance to care patients' mental health which I think is not emphasized enough in China. Secondly, I learned that we should not only focus on a disease itself but also the social and economic effects the disease might bring. Thirdly, the PBL helped me to form a clinical thinking to use everything I learned to solve real problems instead of dealing with exams. Lastly, I understood Australian medical system. I think all above would definitely help me to becoming a better doctor.

About the culture, I didn't find too much difference with China. What impressed me most is Australian people really lead a life which is very healthy and full of passion."


Jin Shi – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, undertook a PBL placement at the University of Sydney in 2010

"During the eight weeks in Sydney Medical School, I attended all the lectures and PBL sessions together with other medical students. I think the PBL sessions actually helped me to develop kind of clinical thought and learned to act like a doctor. When we tried to think of words to express the bad news to patients or educate the patients about long-term management, I really got to understand that doctors should know not only how to diagnose diseases or treat patients, but also how to communicate with patients and how to find out the best way for the patients to lead a normal life. To think for the patients, that's the most important idea I got from this exchange program.

As for the cultural parts, I think one of the Personal Professional Development (PPD) lecture gave me a lot of thoughts. In China when doctors make mistakes or there're some misunderstanding between doctors and patients, it will always turn to quarrel or lawsuit. So doctors actually get more and more afraid to make decisions. But the PPD lecture led us to think how to solve this situation by improving the clinical coordination. I think Chinese doctors should learn to improve the relationships with patients instead of complaining not being respected.''


Zhang Shu-Yi – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, undertook a Clinical placement at the University of Sydney in 2010

Zhang Shu-Yi

"The 2-month placement in rheumatology department of RPAH benefits me a lot. The most important thing that I learnt from the doctors in RPA is the way they treat patient. They really care about patients’ life and their feelings. Many patients in rheumatology are unable to walk when they came to hospital because of the pain caused by arthritis or spinal canal stenosis, after treatment they are usually much better but still not as strong as healthy people. So the doctors will ask questions like this before discharge: how many stairs do you have in your house? Do you live with someone or alone? Do you think you will be able to manage by yourself like this at home? If there is some potential difficulties for patients after discharge, doctors will sent social workers to help. A good doctor treat patient as a people or even friend with great considerate rather than only focus on the disease he/she has.

Doctors here also explain to patients with simple words the disease they have and the kind of treatment they are receiving during ward rounds and clinics. It’s not such an easy task because patients won’t understand medical terms but the doctors here are doing it quite well by using metaphor or models. It’s really important to make the patient understand what’s going on because they are the core of the whole treatment and their cooperation is needed.

I also leant a lot about the common diseases, procedures, and medicine in rheumatology. Since rheumatology contains many systemic diseases, I was able to learn the physical examination of all part of the body here. It impress me greatly that despite the advanced medical machines they have, doctors here still pay a lot of attention to basic physical examination and detailed history taking.

During my placement, I learnt that coffee, beach and weekends play an important role in Australian’s life. On those busy days, the doctors here will still go to the café to have coffee so they won’t have time for lunch! Coffee break is also a golden time for free topics and emotion communication between colleagues. I had several coffee breaks with the doctors and had learnt a lot about the life of the local Australian. Although they are busy in the hospital, they still make their weekends a really leisure time. They held parties, went to the bar and beach. Many Chinese just stayed at home watching TV or surf on internet on weekends but Australians seem to have their weekends more interesting. On Monday, people will always ask you, what did you do on weekends? The beaches are full of people during the weekends when the weather is good. People really like sun and water here. They want their skin to be tanned by the sun while Chinese people don’t want to be tanned by the sun. I’m quite surprised when I see the cream helping your skin to have “healthy colour” in the supermarket because there are only cream for whiten your skin in China. Also I learnt that Melbourne Cup is a big event in Australia. People will even stop working to watch it and everyone is talking about it!"


Zhou Wei – medical student from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China, undertook a Clinical placement at the University of Sydney in 2010

Zhou Wei

"Two months in Sydney flies away in a glimpse. Although it is not quite a long time, there are a lot of things that I have been through during this period. These two months have been one of the most beautiful times in my life and it is full of memory.

I'm here for the exchange program between our school and Sydney University as an elective student in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. My elective is half in Oncology Department, half in Haematology Department.

On the first day of arriving, the secretary of Sydney University referred me to the head of Oncology Department, Prof. Tattersall. Prof. Tattersall is a man with pure British English and grey hair, and he picked me up personally and talked to me kindly. He knows a lot of China, even knowing the big event happened in my hometown. He showed me around the department and introduced me to other members of Oncology team. He made fun of our registrar and resident making everyone laugh. That really made me relaxed for the new environment.

I spent the first two weeks of Oncology majorly in outpatient clinic with Prof. Tattersall in Sydney Cancer Center. As most cancer are chronic diseases, a lot of patients have been followed-up by Prof. Tattersall for several years. He knows those patients very well. Usually after a glance at the name of patient, he tells me about the history of the patient and also their personal conditions just as the family support and the patient's attitude toward the disease. That impressed me a lot.

He likes telling jokes to his patients and me making everyone laugh. He always stops to explain to me the medical knowledge and also the western culture involved in his jokes. Cancer always makes people sorrow, but his jokes always cheers us up making us to accept the reality and face it with the best attitude we could do.

There is a very good relationship between him and his patient. They know each other very well. He is highly respected by patients. Not long ago a father of a high school girl who was a cancer patient died after several years of treatment asked Prof. Tattersall to give a speech on his daughter's funeral. And another aged lady who is his patient invite him to her son's wedding. He told me that he knew it was really important for the family. And he thought he should go there because they did that means they considered him as a family. I really appreciate this and that's the role doctor should play which can help and support people not only medically but also humanly.

Prof. Tattersall also taught me when we confront difficult situation, the difficult calculation of "the risk and benefit evaluation" is important. "Sometimes it is better to do nothing than anything" when aggressive treatment will do more harm than good. He told me that he is doing some research on the behaviour of doctors how can we make patients feel much supported. I think that will do much good to tell us how to become a good doctor who not only treat the diseases but also care for people.

The placement in Haematology "entertained" me a lot. The registrar and resident, also the intern and medical student in my team really are all interesting people. They like to tell jokes too. On the first day when I was introduced to them by a doctor, they are talking about something and laughing loudly. Then our registrar Danny said to me that "Actually, we are very professional". Actually it is. Danny and Kelly always explain to us the point of knowledge we use in Haematology and also like talking to us friendly and humorously. They are vivid, professional and care for patients and students, and I like them very much too. I watched the bone marrow biopsy and stem cell transplant in the department, that really attract me a lot for my further study in Haematology. We should do just like them that be professional and enjoy life from work, and that is the attitude I appreciate very much.

My English language improves a lot through this trip. At first, I could not catch up with the fast speed and all kinds of accent of English from doctors of all nationalities. I had to focus very intensively and thought carefully to get an idea. Situation improved a lot when a week passed. Using English to think is a must now when I communicate in English. And that benefit me a lot.

I went sightseeing in Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra in this trip. Beautiful views always strike me for its fresh and pure. I love this country. Sky is blue and pure, so is the ocean. The animals here are all so cute, koala, kangaroo, platypus, and penguin. I really want to give hugs to them. We also went to Sydney Opera House to listen to a symphony and the melody was so beautiful.

The biggest difference between here and China is that here it is much less crowded. So sometimes we feel lonely and missing home, but the people in Australia are so nice that our loneliness only last for very short time and we go on for those fresh and beautiful things.

We learned to live independently in some degree. Sometimes we cook for ourselves, book air-tickets between cities to get a better view of this continent. Planning our life and study by ourselves, communicating with people coming from different countries in the world, those must benefit us a lot through our lifetime.

Thanks a lot for offerring me this great opportunity of elective student in RPAH. The Office of Global Health did a lot help for me. Fiona and the staff in the office helped me a lot in this period, warm and nice. This is really a lifetime memory. Sometimes I even feel it is not real because the totally different place and people, just like a dream, an inception, in lovely Sydney."


Li Lin – medical student from Fudan University, China, undertook a Clinical placement at the University of Sydney in 2010

Li Lin

"I stayed in liver transplantation department for these eight weeks. My routine work was being an assistant both in the operation theatre and the ward from Monday to Friday. But something different was that I should keep my mobile phone on for 24 hours every day and once I was called by the transplant coordinators of NSW I should be in front of the emergency department on time. And then a small car or a private plane will took the 4-member team to another hospital or another city for the retrieval work. The team always included the chief surgeon, two assistants and a perfusionist. These are really awesome experiences I’ll never forget.

There was one time that we flied to Melbourne for the retrieval. After the surgery I told my team that I decided to stay in Melbourne for the weekend. That was a crazy idea because I had no preparations at all but everything after that improved it the best idea I’ve ever had. Melbourne tour changed my everything in Australia.

Just as my supervisor always told me ‘'ot only do you come for medical knowledge, but also familiarize this country and the most important thing is to always enjoy yourself'. Even second generations of Chinese migrants don’t know how to enjoy their lives, let alone Chinese exchange students. But I should say that this spirit is my biggest gain in Australia and which will lead my later life. I would like to give my sincere gratitude to my good friends Ganson and Kate who were so nice to me and Office for Global Health for providing me with this great opportunity to visit Australia."


Regine Krechowicz – medical student from McMaster University (Canada), undertook an elective at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2010

"I decided to go for a clinical placement in Sydney largely because I had lived in the area before and wanted to explore the professional side of medicine in Australia. In the four weeks in Sydney, I not only got a good sense of the organizational culture of the Australian hospitals but I ended up having one of my best and most worthwhile experiences in medicine thus far.

I worked with the neurosurgery team for four weeks and I couldn't get over how delightful and helpful everyone was – surgeons, interns, registrars, residents and other medical students – everyone was willing to take time to answer questions, show me around the hospital or inform me of great teaching opportunities. I was able to fully participate in clinical teaching, rounds, OR time, meetings, etc which really made me feel valued as a team member. From a medical stand point, I will be completing most of my training in a community hospital in Canada, where there is no neurosurgeon, so for me, these four weeks were totally invaluable because I got to see such a wide variety of presentations, pathologies and procedures - what could likely be my only neurosurgical experience!

While I had lived in Australia before and therefore coming to Australia was less of an exotic adventure and more of a homecoming, I was reminded of why I originally fell in love with the people, the scenery and the Australian way of life. I spent summer evenings studying in outdoor cafes, went swimming in the ocean almost everyday, went to many outdoor music concerts and spend time with friends I hadn't seen in years. Australia has this way of making you slow down, let out a deep sigh and enjoy the moment – even while working in neurosurgery! This was such a welcome change after coming out of our final pre-clerkship exams as well as the perfect way to start the long- haul of clerkship. My experience in Australia offered me such a high quality of medical education as well as a high quality of life enjoyment that if I had more elective time, there's no doubt I'd be coming back to the University of Sydney!”


Scott Kramer – medical student from Cornell (USA), undertook an elective at Westmead Hospital and in Broken Hill Hospital in 2010

My elective in Australia was an amazing experience. During my four weeks at Westmead Hospital I was able to experience how medicine is practiced in an urban hospital in Australia. I worked in the gastroenterology inpatient service and I was also able to spend some time in the endoscopy suite and the weekly clinics. Through seeing patients on the wards and in the clinics, I was able to learn a lot about digestive illnesses. I also was able to gain some practical skills by doing an ascitic tap as well as practicing IV placements and blood draws. There were many interesting procedures I was able to see in the endoscopy suite as well, including ERCP, endoscopic ultrasound and endoscopic mucosal resections.

I then spent two weeks in Broken Hill in remote western NSW, where I worked in the hospital for a week and then had a week of community placements. I spent one day with the ambulance service and also got to go on a flight with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to a clinic in a remote town. It was very interesting to see the differences between urban and rural healthcare in Australia, as well as to learn about the difficulties and limitations of providing healthcare in remote areas.

While I was in Australia, I was also able to do some sightseeing and interact with the residents and local students. Sydney was a wonderful city with a beautiful harbor and many famous landmarks. Living in Broken Hill allowed me to experience the Australian Outback. The residents and students that I met in Australia were very friendly and went out of their way to make me feel welcome and show me around. In fact, I found that almost everyone I met in the country was welcoming and eager to help in any way they could.


Rebecca Skillen - medical student from McMaster University (Canada), undertook an elective at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 2009

"I had the opportunity to do 7 weeks of electives at RPAH in Sydney, 4 weeks of rheumatology and 3 weeks of gastroenterology. I chose Australia because of the similarities to the Canadian healthcare system as well as the high quality medicine and teaching that I knew I would receive. The staff physicians that I worked with were all experts in their field. They were all very knowledgeable and provided exceptional care to their patients. The residents and interns were all very friendly and happy to teach me both about the medicine and the Australian healthcare system.

People were also very happy to answer my many, many questions about the country, city, culture, food, sport, etc, etc. I was able to travel to Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra on the weekends and explored much of Sydney during my 7 weeks of electives. There seemed to be unlimited opportunities in Sydney for sport, culture, recreation, entertainment and was generally very tourist friendly. Following my electives I travelled north to the Great Barrier Reef and the rainforest and to the centre of the country to see Uluru. I would definitely recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to undertake electives in Australia take advantage. I learned a great deal of medicine while working with wonderful people and was also exposed to an exciting culture."