In an Australian first, medical students at UNSW will be able to work towards specialisation in Pathology or Radiology while enrolled in their undergraduate program.

The pathway, which will begin next year, will potentially shorten the period of specialist training that graduates need to undertake at the end of their six-year degree. This may help to address the current shortage of pathologists and radiologists in Australia.

The specialist training pathway has been developed through a powerful collaboration between UNSW, The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) and The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR). The NSW Institute of Medical Education and Training supports the program on the basis that access to the relevant College training programs will remain open to all Australian medical graduates.

UNSW's Dean of Medicine, Professor Peter Smith, says the collaboration cements the University's reputation for innovative medical education.

"The decision benefits the students, the medical profession and the broader community," he says.

"While there is clearly benefit for those who wish to specialise in these areas, graduates from this pathway will still obtain a general medical degree," he says. "It will provide flexibility for students."

RCPA's CEO, Dr Debra Graves, says the collaboration is a demonstration of the diagnostic sciences coming together to be at the forefront of medical education again.

"The benefit of the pathway is the increased exposure to Pathology and Radiology afforded a greater number of medical students," says Dr Graves.

"Importantly, this will occur when the students are most heavily influenced about the choices they will make about specialisation - the outcome of which is we hope to see more pathologists and radiologists in the coming years out of the UNSW medical program."

Medical students would take electives devoted to Pathology or Radiology during their undergraduate degree and would later take advantage of additional training opportunities to be provided in the first two years after graduation. Together, these would allow graduates to seek advanced standing during their specialist training. The pathway could shorten training with the specialist colleges by up to one year.

UNSW hopes to expand the initiative to other areas of medical specialisation in years to come.

Implementation of the advanced standing pathway, which will be rolled out over the next three years, will allow graduates to apply to have the RCPA or RANZCR accredit up to 12 months towards their Fellowship.

A working party involving the RCPA, RANZCR and UNSW Medicine is developing the curriculum for the pathway.

Media contacts: UNSW's Dean of Medicine Professor Peter Smith 02 9385 2451 or Susi Hamilton UNSW media 0422 934 024; Dr Debra Graves, RCPA 02 8356 5858 or 0419 970 984.