Tomasso in his ambassadorial role with the Optus Junior Dolphins.

Medical student and former Olympic swimmer Tomasso D’Orsogna has just returned from a placement in the Kimberley. The rural immersion program is an integral part of the second-year syllabus at the University of Notre Dame and, says Tomaso, was both enjoyable and instructive.

“I’ve never been that far north and it was certainly interesting to see some of the more remote areas of WA. It was a good introduction into rural medicine and an insight into some of the factors that shape indigenous health.”

“The entire second-year cohort of 90 students did the Kimberley placement, everything from volunteering with local community organisations to working on cattle stations. One of the programs I was involved with was the Remote School Attendance Strategy based in Derby which is designed to get kids back to school.”

“It can be as simple as making sure a kid gets on a bus or providing access to a washing machine so they’ve got clean clothes to wear. That can often require a home visit to speak with parents and care-givers to see what can be done to make life a bit easier for all of them.”

“It’s the first time I’ve visited an Aboriginal community and it was an eye-opening experience. Everyone felt a little humbled seeing the conditions, and there are clearly some long-term challenges. It certainly made me realise that I need to spend more time in remote and rural areas. In fact, I reckon it’ll be essential for my ongoing medical education and professional development.”

Tomasso with the kids in Derby pool.

“I know Dad (cardiologist Dr Luigi D’Orsogna) speaks very highly of his time as a Derby-based registrar.”

One of the other hats, or caps in this case, worn by Tomasso is that of competitive swimmer.

“I used to be a part-time student and full-time swimmer but those roles are pretty much reversed now. I’m still swimming competitively but it’s much more for fun now and motivates me to keep fit. I’ll be racing in the State Short Course Championships in a few weeks and after that I’ll be representing Notre Dame at the University Games on the Gold Coast.”

“But it’s unlikely that I’ll be doing any more national competitions, it’s just becoming too hard as the study load increases.”

“There was certainly a lot to think about after the London Olympics. It was pretty clear that there was some poor decision making at a much higher pay-grade than the swimmers, so it isn’t fair to put all the onus on them. A lot was going on within the broader span of international sport which needed closer examination.”

“I’d have to say that things turned out pretty well for me with a bronze medal in the medley relay. I was happy with that result.”

“I think it should be remembered that elite athletes spend a lot of time dedicating their lives to excellence and, for swimmers in particular, there’s not that much in the way of financial rewards compared with many other sports.”

One way of receiving something more from a competitive swimming career that’s nudging the twilight zone is to give something back, says Tomasso.

“I’ve got an ambassadorial role with the Optus Junior Dolphins and it’s great to have a mentoring role helping to develop younger swimmers make the most of their careers. We’ve got some terrific talent coming through, swimmers such as Ashton Brinkworth, Gemima Horwood, Tara Broadbridge and Joshua Edward-Smith so the future of WA swimming is in good hands.”

“I know I’m a little biased but I reckon swimming is the best sport in the world. It’s my passion and it always will be.”

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