fionajulieTwo education programs based at the University of New England were finalists in this year’s Northern Inland Innovation Awards.

The annual awards were presented at the end of October during a special event in Gunnedah organised by Regional Development Australia Northern Inland.

The two UNE finalists were in the “Research and Education” category. They were the University’s School of Rural Medicine, for its annual “whole body dissection surgical anatomy” course, and the team behind the QuickSmart numeracy and literacy intervention program for school students.

Associate Professor Fiona Stewart, Head of Anatomy at UNE, initiated the surgical anatomy course more than 12 years ago, making it a residential course at UNE when she joined the School of Rural Medicine at the School’s foundation in 2008. This year’s course – the fourth at UNE – will run from the 21st of November to the 4th of December.

Over the years, the internationally-renowned course for trainee surgeons and radiologists has attracted participants from the UK, New Zealand and India as well as from all over Australia. Dr Stewart said that it was “an intensive whole body dissection course, expert-led, and facilitated by surgeon-teachers who are specialists in the specific regions dissected”, and that it was designed as “remediation – addressing a decline in the training of undergraduate doctors in anatomy over the past 25 years”. Participants in the course are trainees within the SET (Surgical Education and Training) and Pre-SET programs of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.

The course not only brings participants from around Australia and around the world to Armidale every year, but also introduces them to the attractions – scenic as well as gastronomic – of New England. “We provide them with three meals a day using local produce,” Dr Stewart said, “arrange local accommodation for them, and – where possible – get local manufacturers to supply any extra equipment needed.”

“Most importantly,” she concluded, “I thank the residents of the region – and their relatives – for their invaluable contribution to medical education through their generous support of our body donor program.”

As Dr Stewart could not attend the Awards evening, Professor Peter McKeown, Head of the School of Rural Medicine, joined Julie Mills from UNE’s Anatomy Laboratory in accepting the finalist’s trophy.

The QuickSmart program

The QuickSmart program, developed by UNE’s Professor John Pegg and Associate Professor Lorraine Graham, started in 2001 with 24 students in two schools. The establishment in 2004 of the UNE-based National Centre of Science, ICT and Mathematics Education for Rural and Regional Australia (SiMERR), with Professor Pegg as its Director, helped in the expansion of QuickSmart. In 2011 there are more than 10,000 students undertaking the QuickSmart program in 600 schools across Australia.

By giving middle-school students (typically aged between 10 and 13) confidence in their automatic response to simple questions in arithmetic, QuickSmart enables them to use more of their working memory in solving more advanced problems. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students involved in the program are achieving an average of three years’ improvement in just one year.

Last year the QuickSmart program was named as a “key achievement” in the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report.

It was Professor Pegg and Dr Graham who accepted the finalist’s trophy. “The Awards evening was an exciting event that highlighted the enormous potential for innovation in rural areas,” Professor Pegg said, “and I was thrilled that the QuickSmart program and the QuickSmart team were a part of that.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Associate Professor Fiona Stewart (left) and Julie Mills with their trophy and certificate.

This article was written by UNE’s Marketing and Public Affairs and reproduced here with their permission.

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