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New course helps connect the dots for patients

Tara Corcoran

12 April 2018: When Nancy Barsoum graduated on Thursday April 12, she was among the first cohort to receive a Master of Diagnostic Pathology from the University of Canberra.

The new Master of Diagnostic Pathology provides students with clinical skills and knowledge in the specialisation of medical laboratory science – exactly what Egypt-born Mrs Barsoum was looking for.

Mrs Barsoum had been practicing medicine in her motherland before moving to Australia with her husband and two daughters in 2013. She was searching for a qualification that would broaden her existing medical knowledge and provide her with the skills to work in an Australian setting.

But the journey was not easy.

“I had to study for two years to build my English skills and pass my proficiency tests,” she said. “I completed a Cert III in English before I enrolled in the master’s degree.

“It was hard to adjust to a new culture, with not only a new language but a new accent – everyone in Australia speaks so fast.”

While it was difficult to settle into a new country and study in a secondary language, Mrs Barsoum attributes her academic success to the help she received from her course convener and tutors.

“They helped me with my written assignments and to understand the research methods,” she said.

“The content of the course was very familiar to me, so it was more the language and the cultural differences that I needed to adjust to.”

Mrs Barsoum found her existing understanding of medicine advantageous in her studies, particularly during a three-month placement at the Canberra Hospital.

“Because I worked as a doctor, I understand why doctors have requested certain tests and what their reasoning is,” she said.

“As a clinical pathologist, we are also able to review the patient’s medical history, so the job is really about connecting all the dots.”

The practical experience of the work placement was invaluable for Mrs Barsoum, who appreciated being able to apply her theoretical knowledge in a practical setting.

“It was a very professional course and the units were very close to real life. I’ve studied theory before so to focus on the practical side of things was useful.”

Mrs Barsoum has always had an interest in medicine, first completing a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and then a Postgraduate Diploma in Pediatric Medicine at Cairo University before moving to Australia. She still has an interest in pediatrics and is excited that this can continue through the world of diagnostic pathology.

“I love working with children,” she said. “Children can’t always explain where the problem is or what is wrong – so it really comes down to the examination and tests to figure out the problem.”

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