The first group of students to undertake the landmark Joint Medical Program begin their studies today.
The Joint Medical Program is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, the University of New England and Hunter New England Health.
One hundred students begin their studies today at the University of Newcastle and 60 students start their degree at the University of New England.
Dean of Medicine - Joint Medical Program, Professor Michael Hensley, said the five year course of international standing would prepare students to practice in urban, regional, rural and remote Australia.
"New South Wales towns alone have reported more than 130 vacancies for general practitioners in the last year and this figure is expected to grow," Professor Hensley said.
"Evidence shows that medical students completing their training in a rural setting are more likely to practice in those areas.
"The Joint Medical Program should significantly improve the health system for communities in the Hunter/New England region and beyond."
The Joint Medical Program capitalises on the University of Newcastle's internationally recognised and respected medical program and the University of New England's strong rural standing and expertise in nursing, health and science programs.
The curriculum is based on the University of Newcastle's successful Bachelor of Medicine program which was the first in Australia to offer the now widely used Problem-Based Learning. Program delivery and assessment will be identical at both universities.
"While the predominant medical experience will be in urban settings for students at Newcastle and rural settings for students at New England, all students will complete placements in rural and remote areas and metropolitan settings," Professor Hensley said.
"We expect the exposure to working outside metropolitan areas will have a profound influence on the choices our graduates will make when they are ready for their roles as junior doctors in 2013."
Students will begin their degree program with an introduction to professional practice, medical science and public health.