September 26, 2023

Triumphant Seven: Conquering the Primary Written Exam in Emergency Medicine

In a remarkable display of dedication and expertise, seven exceptional trainees at Northern Hospital Epping have achieved a significant milestone in their medical careers and successfully passed the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) Primary Exam – the first hurdle for emergency medicine trainees to advance in their training.

The exam tests student’s knowledge and understanding of the four basic sciences relating to emergency medicine – anatomy, pathology, physiology and pharmacology.

There are two components to the exam; a written primary examination in August and an oral examination in November each year.

Emergency Medicine Physician and Co-Director of Emergency Medicine Training, Dr Raj Kathirgamanathan, says students normally start studying six months in advance.

“It is not an easy exam, it requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice. Students need to put their personal and social lives on hold and focus entirely on their studies,” he said.

“I find my main focus as an educator, at the very beginning of their studies, is ensuring they have the right mindset and circumstances to study. I often, individually or in a group, sit with every single trainee and go through their commitments, their medical rotations, whether they have a supportive family network and other aspects of their daily routine before they actually start studying,” he added.

Dr Raj has been actively involved in the training of students for more than eight years and the results have always spoken for themselves – an incredible 100 per cent pass rate in the last five years.

“It is very satisfying and I’m very proud of all the students who have passed the Primary Exam. Even though I provide them with the guidance, they are the ones doing the hard work,” he said.

“Seeing these trainees progressing in their training and eventually becoming consultants, is a really nice feeling to be able to experience.”

David O’Connell is an ACEM trainee from Ireland who has been living in Melbourne for the past four years. He works at Northern Hospital Epping doing the anaesthetics rotation.

“Most of us would have been studying since about February or March, and in the past two months really ramping it up and doing a lot of regular study and putting in a lot of hours, which means not a lot of time to do other things, like hang out with your friends, or finding time to exercise, as well as work, as well as study, as well as do other things like cook your dinner,” he said.

David says he is very grateful to Dr Raj for his professionalism and unwavering support, but also for being a genuine and approachable person in general.

“The Northern Hospital has a really excellent track record of people passing, especially in the last five years, so it’s a testament of the supportive environment and the excellent work that Dr Raj and the other ED Directors are doing,” he said.

“I would also like to mention Phyllis Fu and Cynthia Lim as some of the consultants who have been involved in the tutorials and performance training with us.”

As they embark on the next phase of their journey, these seven trainees will be going into a four-year advanced training before sitting their last exams and fulfilling the requirements to becoming Emergency Specialists.

From all of us here at Northern Health, good luck and well done!

Pictured the seven trainees straight after the exam (L-R): Ahmed AlKhasal, David O’Connell, Thanh Truong, Madeleine Goss, Casey Barbis, Adam Keating and Yasmin Bouattia

Pictured in featured image (L-R): David O’Connell and Dr Raj Kathirgamanathan