January 8, 2021

IMG Observer Program: doorway for international doctors

Northern Hospital, Epping is a long way from Kandy, Sri Lanka where Dr Fathima Farook was born and educated. Currently a Hospital Medical Officer (HMO) at Northern Health, she says “Working here, to me, feels like I never left home!”

Fathima attributes this as much to the friendly and caring staff as she does to the confidence she gained from the International Medical Graduate (IMG) Observer Program she was fortunate enough to enlist in.

Says Fathima, “I was able to take full advantage of the Observer Program to enrich my knowledge and immerse myself in the Australian health system.“

Formally known as the International Medical Graduate Clinical Observer Program, this highly competitive program on average attracts five applicants for every position secured. It offers international medical graduates an opportunity to spend six weeks at Northern Hospital to acclimatise to the Australian health system.

“As an international medical graduate, it helps to know how the Australian health system works, and what is required in order to hit the ground running. This is where Northern Health makes a big difference.”

Typical placements involve three weeks on a general medicine unit and three weeks in the emergency department.

Says Fathima, “Northern Health actively engages the IMGs, recognises their skills and offers them a path for jobs.”

Dr Alison Giles, IMG Supervisor, says, “The International Medical Graduate Clinical Observer Program offers international doctors a chance to acclimatise to Australian health system. Some go on to get job offers which helps diversify our workforce to reflect our community.”

Dr Rachael Coutts, Associate Director Medical Education Unit, agrees. “IMG’s are an essential part of our workforce – both junior and senior medical staff.  Their diversity matches our multicultural community.”

“Transitions into new environments can be challenging, and our IMG program offers multifaceted supports including the observership program, an education program, support groups, mentorship and supervision. The program of support we provide helps us attract wonderful IMGs like Fatima, who is not only an excellent clinician but is kind and compassionate – embodying Northern values, ” she adds.

Saya Fathima, “I’m indebted to the Observership Programme for providing me that opportunity to be a cut above the rest. I am grateful that this programme was the doorway to continue my medical career in Australia.”


Featured image shows from left to right:

Dr Rachael Coutts, Associate Director Medical Education Unit, Emergency Physician, Rebecca Hartmann, Education Advisor, Medical Education Unit, Dr Fathima Farook, HMO and Dr Alison Giles, IMG Supervisor, Head of Palliative Care.