MD Project

The MD Project is one of the foundations of the Western Sydney University (WSU) Doctor of Medicine (MD) 5-year undergraduate entry medical program. This course offers medical students the opportunity to work with a supervisor to conduct a hands-on, in-depth investigation of a health-related topic. The MD Project provides, skills relevant to their future careers as medical professionals by learning through experience. Student learning will also be supported by the WSU MD Project team, and on demand access to online teaching resources.

Supervisors with more than one student may allow students to work collaboratively in pairs, or in small groups, on pre-determined aspects of similar topics. However, each MD project must be unique, and students must individually develop, address, and report on an original question or project aim.

MD Project Scope

MD Projects must meet the standards of scholarship expected of a Professional Masters[1] and be in proportion to other course requirements in scope. Students are allocated up to 10 weeks to focus on project work across Year 3 and 4 in the course and must be able to complete all project requirements alongside other coursework.

Each MD Project should:

  • Be scholarly work.
  • Be proportionate in size and scope (as noted larger projects can be shared by more than one student, each with a different question to address).
  • Have clearly defined aims/objectives.
  • Have clearly articulated and deliverable outcomes, or end-point measures.
  • Have methods that address a scientific, educational, clinical, or community health related question.

A MD Project can:

  • Be a small standalone project.
  • Be an 'add-on' to an existing project.
  • Utilise existing data, medical records, or stored tissue samples.
  • Have established methods and protocols

Supervisors are expected to arrange ethics approval through the relevant committee (WSU, AH&MRC, or LHD either LNR or REGIS) before students commence any research involving humans or animals.

MD Project Types

Projects can be focused on research, education and/or service learning to prepare students for the roles of doctors as scientists, educators and community leaders.

Research-focused projects

A research project is a scientific endeavour that addresses a defined research question. Research is a systematic inquiry to describe, explain, explore, predict or control an observed phenomenon and to generate new concepts, understandings, methodologies and interventions. Through research, students will gain a deeper understanding of a specific medical or biomedical area of health, while learning about appropriate study designs, research methods and tools, analysis and interpretations, either by creating new knowledge and/or by using existing knowledge in a new and creative way.

Education-focused projects

A project in medical education is carefully planned to achieve specific education focused learning outcomes, and could involve patients or clients, students, alumni, instructors and other educational staff. Students conducting health educational projects can produce new knowledge in health education and gain career-long skills in curriculum development, use of new learning strategies, innovative technology in teaching and learning, and program evaluation.

Service-learning focused projects

Service learning is experiential learning where students work with a service to learn about the needs of the service and/or its clientele, and corresponding local, regional, and/or national social problems. A service-learning project provides enhanced opportunities for civic learning through cycles of action and reflection. Students will gain a deeper understanding of community issues and will use an academic and scholarly approach to achieve objectives that are relevant to the community.

MD Project Streams

MD Project topics can be developed in any one of eight main streams: Biomedical and Basic Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Community Health, General Practice & Primary Health Care, Health Innovations, Indigenous Health, Medical Education, and Rural Health.

MDP Streams 31 Jan

Biomedical Sciences

Biomedical and basic science projects aim to further understanding of the mechanisms that underlie the function of body systems, and how those mechanisms may be disrupted due to injury or pathology. Examples of MD project topics:

  • Protein aggregation and cancer.
  • Detection of amyloid beta and neurofibrillary tangles in an animal model of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Optimization of a method to quantify nitric oxide release in the retina.
  • Role of dystrophin in the central nervous system.
  • Skeletal muscle fiber branching in Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
  • Cardiovascular control during muscle pain.
  • Meta-analysis of bio-resorbable vascular scaffolds.

Stream Advisors –  Prof John Morley, A/Prof Yossi Buskila

Clinical Medicine

Project topics in Clinical Medicine focus on improving the quality of patient care through research, clinical audits or quality assurance.

Clinical medicine projects can include:

  • Collecting evidence on contentious clinical patient management areas and advice/synthesis.
  • Establishing prospective reviews for new techniques or clinical pathways.
  • Analysis and reporting of quality improvement data.
  • Observing and reporting inter-professional collaboration.
  • Analysis of medical work roles.
  • Reviewing adherence to clinical guidelines including prescribing.
  • Observing and reporting team communication and professional behaviours in clinical workplaces.
  • Review of policies, and/or clinical guidelines.

Stream Advisors: - A/Prof Ian Turner, Dr Katrina Chau

Community Health

Research topics in the Community Health Stream include promotion of health and wellbeing, prevention of disease, intervention early in the life course and/or early in disease development. Projects may use epidemiological, qualitative and mixed methods approaches, and aim to investigate and analyse the factors that influence the health status of groups, communities or whole populations. Students may test and evaluate policies and interventions that aim to improve health outcomes.

Service Learning projects in Community Health are developed together with a community service to the benefit of service providers and service users. Projects must strike a balance between service (action) and learning (reflection).

Community Health Project examples include:

  • Developing and evaluating resources to improve the health of a specific population (e.g. women or refugees) on a specific health issue.
  • Evaluating existing programmes of research for efficacy (e.g. a diabetes prevention program).
  • Exploring the experiences of specific groups to inform intervention development (e.g. individuals with obesity and their support needs).
  • Designing and/or contributing to educational outreach programs to a community or client group.

Stream Advisors – A/Prof Lise Mogensen,  Dr Phyllis Lau

General Practice and Primary Health Care  

General Practice and Primary Health Care projects aim to improve health and well-being of the community through better primary health care systems and improved quality of the patient journey. Projects would be based in the community, and related to general practice and primary health care. They include (but not limited to) quantitative, qualitative or mixed methods research in the following topic areas:

  • Adolescent health
  • Chronic disease management
  • Cultural diversity and competence
  • Ear and hearing health
  • Health care communication
  • Health of doctors & medical students
  • Health service delivery
  • Indigenous health
  • Innovations in primary healthcare
  • Interprofessional care
  • Justice health
  • Medical student mentorship
  • Mental health
  • Refugee health
  • Women's health

Stream Advisor – Dr Phyllis Lau

The General Practice and Primary Health Care Stream will be part of the new model commencing in 2025.

Health Innovations

Research topics in the Health Innovations Stream aim to i) identify areas of unmet healthcare need experienced by patients and clinicians, and ii) identify and pursue potential innovations to address these needs. Projects may use qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Students may generate data outlining patient and/or clinician needs specific to a discipline, or common across multiple disciplines. Students may also propose, test and/or evaluate innovative solutions that aim to address the needs of patients and clinicians.

Health Innovation projects are developed together with a supervisor who is expert in a particular medical discipline. In 2022, students will collect and analyse narrative survey data to determine discipline-specific, priority innovation areas. Students will use this data to summarise potential innovation ideas and areas for further exploration – which may include technology, training, practice or health system needs.

Stream Advisors – A/Prof Michael O’Connor, Dr Elizabeth O'Connor

Indigenous Health

Projects in Indigenous Health focus on strength based, Indigenist frameworks.  The main objective of the Indigenous Health team is to translate successful holistic and integrated healthcare models into health research, health policy, health service delivery, and health professional education and training. Indigenous health research extends across a diverse range of indigenous issues with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of Indigenous Australians. In addition, the team aims to reinforce Indigenous research leadership as well as further develop innovative models of care and service delivery. The team does this through deep engagement with local communities, with whom they co-create research priorities, methodologies and outcomes which are aligned with, and/or determined by Indigenous peoples’ needs and experiences. Students are welcome to contribute to a variety of clinical and community-based projects.

Indigenous Health topics include:

  • Engagement with Indigenous communities (e.g. yarning circles for community needs).
  • Evaluating public health initiatives (e.g. CVA rehabilitation; sleep hygiene).
  • Assessing community health needs (e.g. parenting programs, forensic mental health).
  • Measuring cultural competence in health care (e.g. Y analyses in health organisations).

Stream Advisor – Prof Aunty Kerrie Doyle

Medical Education

Medical Education projects focus on transfer or acquisition of knowledge, attitudes or skills relevant to healthcare, in learners ranging from medical and health professionals, trainees or students, or their clients and patients. Projects may cover any stage of training, from medical school to internship and residency, to continuing medical education, and patient education.

Medical Education Project topic themes and examples include:

  • Approaches to Teaching & Learning: Curricular design and innovations.
  • Assessment: Student selection, assessment of knowledge skills & attitudes.
  • Evaluation: Evaluation of design, processes and outcomes of teaching and assessment, student and teacher characteristics.
  • Personal & Professional Development: Ethics, communication & teamwork, self-care, self-regulation & self-reflection, and patient-centered care.
  • Student Support: Student wellbeing and health, learning support and learning skill development.
  • Faculty Development: Teaching skills development and training.

Stream Advisors – Dr Iman Hegazi,  Dr Elizabeth O'Connor

Rural Health

Rural Health projects focus on significant issues for rural communities. Rural community is defined broadly – projects may focus on a particular town or region, or cover rural communities across the state or nation. Topics are viewed through a rural perspective and context, for example, rural health service availability and access, quality of rural service delivery, or the features of medical conditions in a rural context.

Rural Health Project topic examples include:

  • Unique rural health service delivery (e.g. telehealth, models of care, service access).
  • Development of health resources (e.g. farm safety, telehealth).
  • Impact of environmental factors (e.g. drought, floods).
  • Service learning by participating in a rural service/program (e.g. local dementia cafĂ©).

Stream Advisors – Dr Levi Osuagwu (Bathurst), Dr Natalie Edmiston (Lismore)


MD Project ConvenorProf Anand Hardikar
MD Project Deputy ConvenorDr Elizabeth O’Connor
MD Project Support OfficerMs Orchid Kruse