The Joseph Epstein Prize is awarded to the highest scoring candidates in a cohort at the Primary Viva Examination, on their first attempt of the examination. The 2023.1 examination was sat by 187 candidates at the AMC’s National Test Centre in Melbourne.
Dr Michael Nguyen has been awarded the Joseph Epstein Prize. Image supplied.
Michael discovered he won the prize on a Sunday night, just before starting his last overnight shift in a run of nights. While he thought he had performed quite well on the exams, he was surprised to discover just how well he had done.
"It was quite nice to share the news with my team when we all went out for breakfast afterward," he said.
Michael started studying for the exam six months prior to the written component. He believes the key steps for success when preparing for the primary exams were starting the revision process early and ensuring a structured approach with achievable goals.
“It's really a marathon – you don’t have to be the smartest person in the world and a lot of it is just about getting through short term goals to eventually get to the endpoint.”
Michael also utilised the resources at his disposal, consulting doctors in his hospital who previously completed the exam and reviewing guidelines from other hospitals on how best to approach his study. He then consolidated this advice to formulate a structure that suited him best.
During the study period, his biggest supports included his fiancé, Rebecca, and the group of doctors involved in the Toowoomba ED training program. The hospital hosted fortnightly study sessions, and Michael also had a study buddy and fellow trainee, Bree, who he worked with weekly to prepare for both the written and Viva components.
Michael initially trained as a rural GP before pivoting to emergency medicine. By beginning in general practice, he was able to develop a greater understanding of what type of medicine he was passionate about, so that by the time he started his emergency training he knew the choice he made was a highly informed one. Because he was exposed to more acute medicine during his time practising in a rural GP setting, Michael realised that he enjoyed the ‘emergency’ side of things more.
“That perspective was very important because I’m now very certain that this is definitely for me."
Michael loves working in Toowoomba as the catchment area is large enough to be involved in regular cases of trauma, but small enough for him to have exposure to procedures that he would otherwise defer to speciality services in a city or metropolitan tertiary facility.
He also thinks very highly of the culture in the Toowoomba ED: “A lot of the senior consultants are very hands on and very supportive. They love to teach, and they love to help us with procedures.”
The mentorship and support he received has inspired him to pursue more educational roles in the future, so he can pay forward the knowledge and expertise he absorbed during his studies.
“I had such strong support, and I would love to pass on that support myself."
The Joseph Epstein Prize consists of a bronze medal and a certificate awarded at the annual College Ceremony.