This medical education and training program (locally known as SIMPLER) has since expanded to include system strengthening improvement projects and continuous medical education opportunities.
Currently, students cannot study medicine in Solomon Islands. Instead, aspiring young doctors are sent to Cuba under a scholarship program offered by the Cuban Government or else study at approved out-of-country institutions in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, China and Taiwan.
When they return, they must enter into an apprenticeship model, where they are immersed in clinical placements, supervised and taught by their seniors. During their intern years these medical graduates develop and consolidate skills, abilities and knowledge as they move towards more independent medical practice.
However, there is a significant shortage of appropriately trained doctors to supervise these newly qualified doctors. This is where SIMPLER comes in.
Through SIMPLER, Australian health professionals are sent to Solomon Islands to work side by side with local colleagues to help supervise and train large numbers of foreign-trained medical graduates returning to Solomon Islands as well as improve or develop support systems, such as laboratory, diabetic care and nursing services.
SIMPLER is a collaboration between AVI, the Australian Volunteers Program, the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Ministry of Health & Medical Services – Solomon Islands and the National Referral Hospital, Honiara.
For a contemporary view of volunteering in the National Referral Hospital in Honiara (2022) please view the videos below which provide insights into the working life of Solomon Islander doctors and nurses.
All available positions for SIMPLER are advertised on the Australian Volunteers Program website.
The Bridging Program supports foreign-trained medical graduates to consolidate, expand and apply their knowledge and skills under close supervision, through clinical immersion and regular, structured education sessions.
Intern Training Program
The two-year Intern Training Program allows medical graduates (either directly from university or after completing the Bridging Program) to complete the prescribed minimum standards in a range of clinical disciplines in order to become fully registered doctors.
Post registration training
Volunteers are also involved in the development of a Post Graduate Diploma in Rural Medicine and supporting candidates undertaking the Diploma in Emergency Medicine.
Medicine in the Pacific
SIMPLER provides an opportunity for Australian medical health professionals to develop their skills and knowledge about healthcare delivery in a limited resource setting, learning from highly experienced local specialists about the burdens on healthcare in Solomon Islands.
Participants also develop their skills as a medical educator, sharing knowledge with young doctors to increase their capacity to deliver medical care across the Solomon Islands.
Published May 2023, this most recent scholarly article provides an updated picture of the impacts of Cuban medical training in the Pacific region focusing on two case studies. It highlights the experiences of Pacific Island doctors trained in Cuba and their integration into practice in their home country.
We are the ones who will have to make the change Sharon McLennan and Cristine Werle (May 2023)