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Student profiles

Angela Ernst

  • Currently completing: Postgraduate Diploma in Occupational Medicine & Masters of Aviation Medicineprofile-AVMed-2
  • Lives in Vancouver, Canada
  • Family Practice/ General Practice

What led you to OAMU?
About 7 years ago I left my traditional family practice in order to work in a travel medicine clinic and at the Vancouver International Airport occupational medicine clinic. I liked the aviation and occupational setting so much that I thought I would explore, in the latter half of my career, educational and training opportunities in this area – hence, my interest in the unique U of Otago AvMed program.

What have you enjoyed about our programme?
In the AvMed program I have enjoyed the intellectual challenges; finally learning how to use PowerPoint; swapping editing roles with my student daughter (who knew punctuation could be so complicated?); and of course meeting delightfulpeople from all over the world. The Calgary PVP highlight was getting to know fellow students and teachers; the lowlight was receiving a photo radar speeding ticket in the mail when I got home.

Tom Hyland

  • 2015 - Completed Postgraduate Diploma in Health Sciences with Credit endorsed in Aeromedical Retrieval and Transportprofile-AVMed
  • Lives in Perth, Australia and Broome, Australia
  • Role: Flight Paramedic and Rescue Crewman

Why did you choose OAMU?
I heard of the OAMU programme from the Westpac boys in Auckland. They were either completing or teaching the AVME papers and told me to get involved - I guess it kind of led me towards my current job, which I love. 

What have you enjoyed about our programme?
The most outstanding part of this program is the range of specialities that can be brought to the class from all over the world. From the experiences of the tutors, to doctors that are in management roles of massive airline corporations or specialist wards, those in metropolitan Hems, to rural nurses, or those just starting out in the aeromedical industry - everyone can contribute and provide feedback and I am constantly surprised or amazed at the information that is provided. I’ve also been on a fixed wing retrieval with a class member, by shear luck - so you'll never know who you'll run into. 

What has been your motivation for "sticking with it" even when things got tough? I am constantly reminded of the importance to excel and become better, and ultimately ‘practice what we preach’. The minimum amount of time we can get a patient from time of injury to definitive care is approximately 6 hours. That's a long time to transport and care for someone who is critical… and it’s this reality that is all the motivation I need.

Eddie Callachan

Eddie CallachanEddie Callachan is one of our alumni students, who studied from the United Arab Emirates.

  • With the OAMU: 2006-2010
  • Studied from: Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Role: Flight paramedic
  • Prior qualifications: National Diploma Ambulance and Emergency Care (1996)
  • Studied towards: PGCertHealSc (AeroRT)
                                PGDipHealSc (AeroRT)
                                MHealSc (AeroRT)

Why did you choose UOW?
Otago is widely known as a leader in aviation and retrieval medicine education. Very few programs around the world offered air medical care and transport as a tertiary qualification. It was easy for allied health professionals to apply, meaning folks like paramedics, who want to combine education in a field that essentially only offers certificates on attendance, and no University coursework. It also allowed paramedics to obtain a post graduate qualification in this field, as may paramedics hold an undergraduate degree, but are sometimes pressed for an interesting post graduate qualification. Faculty were well known as experts in their field. The initial application process as a foreign qualified paramedic (South Africa) was also very easy. My certification was evaluated for equivalency and the university suggested a study path for me, knowing that my end goal was a Masters Degree. Their suggested path was spot on; it eased me through not only the aeromedical care aspects, but also academic writing and research as well.

How did you find learning via distance?
Easy do to, convenient as I was in full in full time employment at the time. Was nice to work at own pace, and any issues were quickly addressed by lecturers. I was also able to do my final research project locally in the UAE, which made distance learning the ideal choice in the end.

- Venues were easy to find
- Invigilators were professional
- University were very accommodating

- Fantastic learning experience
- Great to interact with other students and get lectures in that format

Residential School:
- Dubai (2012)
- Very valuable experience
- Classes and tours were targeted to study groups
- Allowed students to get face time with lecturers to discuss issues

Glen Hawkins

Glen HawkinsGlen Hawkins is a current student, studying from Australia.

  • With the OAMU: 2012
  • With Otago University: 1988-1994
  • Studied from: Australia
  • Role: Specialist doctor
  • Prior qualifications: BMedSc (1992), MBChB (1994), FANZCA (2006)
  • Studying towards: PGDipOccMed

Why did you choose UOW?
It had a course that I required and could combine it with a subject that I am interested in (Aviation Medicine). Otago University is also my primary Medical Degree University so I knew the teaching would be very good.

How did you find learning via distance?
Surprisingly almost the same as being on site! The only thing missing is the lectures and to be honest that’s not something that is required for my style of learning. The topics are interesting and the variety of learning systems (educational texts, forum discussions, live presentations etc etc) keep the topics interesting and the faculty are always trying to make it better and more interactive and that’s a big strength in this system. The faculty are helpful, punctual with responses and are always trying to improve things. To be honest, I sort of forgot it was a distance learning course being done from another country!

Remarkably simply! I just went to an exam centre in Sydney (short drive) and they expected me and it was the same as all the exams I have sat. Nothing different to doing exams at the University!

The course has been a bit of an eye opener to me as I came in thinking this will be a little second rate. In fact its probably more interactive that being on campus. The tutors are available all the time via email and when I initially wanted to ask questions Dr Rob Griffiths had a long chat to me via Skype to add a nice personal touch. The interactive online presentations are actually quite useful as we can ask questions both of the tutors and person presenting and they all have interesting and unique perspectives form different countries. Even the cultural differences make the application of the principles learnt interesting and create a need to think outside the square which always makes it a challenge.

Residential School:
- Attending in this year in Phoenix
- Looking forward to putting faces to names

Otago Alumni:
I am an Otago University Alumnus (Medical Degree from 1988-1994 with BMedSc in 1991) so know the people are dedicated and the teaching standard is very high. The great thing about this course is that the faculty are so enthusiastic and helpful (even for the slightly dumb questions I have from time to time) and they are always willing to try new things to make the course more interesting and interactive for the students. Everything they do is for the students and that’s a good thing for us.

Seshnag Siddavaram

Seshnag SiddavaramSeshnag Siddavaram is a current student, studying in New Zealand.

  • With the OAMU: 2010-now
  • Studied from: New Zealand
  • Role: Healthcare Professional
  • Prior qualifications: MBBS (2010)
  • Studied towards: PGCertOccMed

Hi all,

I’m Dr.Seshnag Siddavaram, a medical graduate. After finishing my basic medical degree in India, I shifted base to New Zealand to persue my post graduate education. I happened to come across the OAMU when I was almost prepared to take up travel medicine. But after having several lengthy conversations with Dr.Robin Griffiths and Ms.Katherine Harris; now replaced by (equally effective) Ms.Laura Burley, both of who are extremely helpful (but surely must be sick of the sheer volume my questions, no doubt) I decided to take up Occupation & Aviation Medicine at Otago.

Although I was into the course for Av.Med, Rob's intuitive teaching and Mark's mysteriously effective discussions made me turn towards Occupational Medicine for good. I have completed the PGCert in Occupation Medicine, PG Diploma in Occupation Medicine and am now on my way to complete MAvMed this year.
I suppose the entire program has been laid down keeping in mind the enormous pressures that young doctors and working professionals face in their every day lives. Although during the initial phase of the journey, we will find managing studies and work a little strenuous, I can bet by the time we finish the last assignment and are getting ready for the Residential School, our course tutors will ensure that we are geared up for 2 things; firstly to face the exams and secondly but more importantly, that we have adequate working knowledge that we can carry forward to apply in our work place and in confusing clinical scenarios.

The beauty of the teaching lies in the highly experienced and vastly knowledgeable tutors who give you the inputs into the current systems of practice. The forum discussions and the variety of replies that we get for clinical cases are often worth re-reading and the course material in itself is sufficient if you are looking to pass the exams but to have a better understanding of the topic or subject, I would definitely suggest the ER & RR. ( Although I often only read the abstracts of the articles- Sorry Rob, Mark, David, Ben.)

The highlight of the program is the 1 week Residential School held in different parts of the world where we can network, make new friends, have a few ( or lots of) cocktails and (if you are really into that stuff) have lengthy subject discussions with your course tutors. The entire experience in itself is quite refreshing from the routine boredom of work or study and often we get energized to perform better.

My singular advice to any and all prospective students who are reading this:
" Join Otago's OAMU and you will feel the difference"