Future Focus: Lauren Zawal

Lauren Zawal, a final year student at The University of Newcastle, secured an elective with Smith Street Practice in Tamworth, where there was a focus on increasing access of bone densitometry to rural populations.

During her time with Smith Street Practice, Lauren experienced the health inequities faced by populations in rural and remote regions within Australia, strengthening  her desire to contribute to General Practice research. Read a full account of Lauren’s experience below.


Tamworth Healthcare

Tamworth is the one of the largest regional cities in NSW, serviced by multiple general practices and Tamworth Hospital. For my elective, I was fortunate to work with one of the long-standing practices in Tamworth, Smith Street Practice, focusing on how the practice was enhancing patient’s access to bone densitometry scans. With limited options to have bone densitometry performed in Tamworth, this general practice employs the services of a travelling ‘bone bus’ that parks in the practice carpark, providing accessibility for their patients. It was truly fantastic to see the service in action, with patients eagerly booking their appointments months in advance.

Research in General Practice

Coming from a rural background and having a strong sense of service to improving health inequities in rural areas, I decided that I wanted to contribute to general practice research. Evaluation of patient outcomes in general practice is integral to improving the health of the population it serves. During my elective, I was tasked with writing a research protocol to enable further reflection and communication about the implementation and uptake of the ‘bone bus’ service, to better inform practice. Despite being a steep learning curve, requiring guidance and mentoring by the practice staff, this was a valuable learning opportunity which gave me a great sense of accomplishment.

Health Equity

During this placement, I was further exposed to the health imbalances faced by populations in rural and remote regions within Australia. Statistics show that the prevalence of osteoporosis is higher in rural areas as well as the adverse sequelae of minimal trauma fracture, increased hospitalisation and higher rates of mortality.  Therefore, the importance of increasing access to bone densitometry to rural populations is imperative.

I think that by exposing myself to a new location and adverse health circumstances, it has encouraged me to reflect on my own practice and how I might strive to work towards better outcomes for my future patients in rural areas.

Elective Conclusion

I am really appreciative for The BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grant, as it gave me the financial freedom to complete this elective and ensure that I could pay for my living and travel expenses, which has ultimately been extremely helpful to my medical education.


Developed exclusively for medical and dental students, each year the BOQ Specialist FutureFocus grants provide students with the opportunity to undertake an elective so that their commitment to helping others can be realised. Applications for our FutureFocus Grant open in May and close in August. 

You can also access funds to help undertake an overseas placement, with our Student Banking Package.


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