Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Africa influences a career decision

It was a life-changing moment in Africa that convinced Morwell’s Carly Jennings that she wanted to study medicine.

Children in a Malawi village
Now an obstetrician and gynaecologist working at Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne, Carly had just finished a degree in biomedical science and about to do an honours year when she and sister Nicole went to Africa for a holiday. They were only 21 and 19.

“It was a random decision,” Carly recalled. “We decided as part of the holiday to do some volunteer work at an orphanage for babies in small community in Malawi. There was a really sick baby named Rejoice. She was struggling so we took her to hospital in a nearby town but getting a diagnosis was difficult. We were there a month until she recovered.”

Carly made her mind up to study medicine while she was still in Africa.

“The deadline to sit the GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test) was close so I emailed a friend back home who enrolled me,” she said. “Fortunately I was accepted.”

Born and raised in Morwell where her family owned a butcher shop, Carly attended Crinigan Road Primary School and later Kurnai College.

After completing her first year at Monash Rural Health Churchill, she spent her second year at Frankston, third between Sale Hospital and Maffra Medical Group and her fourth year on rotations with Latrobe Regional Hospital in Traralgon.

Always keen to specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology, Carly returned to Africa and did an elective in the field in Rwanda with the largest maternity hospital in the capital city of Kigali. “It was a really different experience,” she said. “Not many staff at all but they were happy with both me and my friend who was also studying medicine.”

Carly and Nicole with Rejoice
When she returned home, Carly applied for specialist training and was fortunate in gaining one of 22 places from 250 applications. She completed her internship at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, her second and third years of training at the Royal Women’s Hospital and is now at Monash Health.

Looking back, she would never consider doing anything else. “My field is so incredibly special. And delivering babies is the best part. You get to spend the most amazing time of people’s lives with them.”

However despite her demanding schedule, she still gets back to the Latrobe Valley regularly to visit family and friends…and her hairdresser.

And is still in contact with little Rejoice, now six. Carly and Nicole, now a midwife, have returned to Malawi to visit her. “She is in an orphanage with other children and is very happy and healthy,” Carly said. “Nicole sponsors her so we get regular updates.”

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