Jai Defranciscis
Jai Defranciscis

Jai Defranciscis

Indigenous Health Scholarship 2023

Flinders University, NT

Doctor of Medicine
Scholarship Awarded 2023

Sponsored by:
Rotary Club of Darwin

Indigenous Health Scholarship Program

How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?

One of my earliest experiences and impressions I have of the healthcare system, was when I was 8 years old….. I wanted to work in the hospital to prevent other families going through what my family went through. I was too embarrassed to share this dream with anyone until my final year of high school where I
admitted to the guidance counsellor that I wanted to go to university.

I applied and successfully got into nursing and can proudly say I have worked as a nurse for the past 14 years. In this time, I have also completed a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine which has launched many opportunities, including working for Doctors Without Borders. I have worked in remote, low resource settings in developing countries in places such as refugee camps, detention centres and war zones. After every contract overseas, coming home I am relieved to be back in the “lucky” country.   But one of the stark realities which I have never been able to reconcile, is how Australia has one of the best health care systems in the world and yet our First Nations people, have the same health outcomes, if not worse, than those living in developing countries.

It can feel overwhelming and unfair, when you add up all the inequities faced by our mob.  But I refuse to accept that I live in a country where my people, First Nations people, have shorter life expectancies, higher rates of illness and disease, lower levels of income, education, and employment; and higher rates of incarceration. And you start to think, it’s all too much and I’m only one person, how can I make a difference?    Well for me, I took the plunge and went after the dream I’ve always had and applied for medicine, and I got in.

There have been many times throughout my life when people have told me that I’m not smart enough or good enough; or that I’m not capable. I know I’m not alone; I know this is a message which many of our mob have heard countless times throughout their life and a sentiment that our younger generations continue to hear. I want to follow in the lead of my ancestors, to continue to push for systemic change and keep rallying and fighting for our mob and our communities. In the future, I would like to work in remote communities, to be able to provide high quality and holistic primary health care. I want to be a part of improving
the health outcomes for our mob. I also hope that I can inspire the younger generations to have the courage to go after their dreams, just like I have.

Current Progress Report

My time so far in MD3 based in Alice Springs over the past 6 months has been a journey of personal growth and professional development. Through active participation on placement in each of my rotations, I have gained invaluable education and solidified my knowledge, understanding and clinical skills.

Inside the hospital, I was fortunate to work alongside dedicated professionals who exhibited an unwavering commitment to providing quality care to patients in a challenging environment. The diverse patient population exposed me to a wide range of medical conditions, allowing me to enhance my clinical skills and broaden my understanding of various specialties. From emergency medicine in Tennant Creek hospital, to outreach visits to remote communities such as Ali Curung and Papunya; I have witnessed the resilience of patients and the immense dedication of healthcare providers in delivering holistic care whilst navigating cultural differences, distance/remoteness and resource limitations.

Alice Springs, with its rich cultural heritage and vibrant community, provided me with an opportunity to gain further insight into the social determinants of health and the challenges faced by remote and Indigenous communities. These experiences highlighted the significance of how a holistic and culturally appropriate approach to medicine is required and has further emphasized the need to address the social, economic, and cultural factors alongside clinical

I have also been fortunate to have many unique experiences outside of the hospital setting. The natural beauty and unique landscapes of Alice Springs and the surrounding areas has provided a respite from the demanding hospital environment. Exploring the breathtaking Red Centre and immersing myself in the local culture during my free time not only rejuvenated my spirit but also deepened my appreciation for the connection between nature and well-being. In my recent
holidays I completed the Larapinta trail, which is a 233km hike from Mt Sonder/Redbank Gorge back to Alice Springs Telegraph station. I have also had the opportunity to re-visit Uluru, Kata Tjuta and King’s Canyon, which has reaffirmed the importance of incorporating elements of mindfulness and self-care into my future medical practice.

I have received an abundance of on job teaching from my supervising clinicians and have been able to draw on this in my assessments to date, which has further contributed to my successful results. I have continued to obtain impressive results, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication that I am putting into my studies. I am continually grateful for the opportunity to undertake placement in Alice Springs, and I look forward to the future experiences and learning
opportunities that await this semester. I have successfully completed the first semester of MD3 and am ready to progress into the next semester to continue my learning journey.

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