Indigenous Health Scholarship
University of Newcastle, NSW
Doctor of Medicine
Scholarship Awarded 2020 – 2022
How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?
As a Wongaibon woman from western NSW, I appreciate the value of having a strong and accessible healthcare system and services outside of metropolitan areas. Which is why I am passionate about creating equitable rural health and life outcomes throughout my medical career through the improvement of healthcare access and service.
I feel a strong connection to the country and know that this prize will assist in my pursuit of a career in rural medicine, in which I hope to take my practice rural and collaboratively work with Indigenous communities. It is apparent that further intervention needs to be developed; there is a 39% gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes and a 10 year life expectancy gap. These confronting statistics can be explained by social determinants, socioeconomic disadvantages and access to health care.
With a shortage of medical practitioners in rural and remote Australia advocacy through all medical aspects needs to increase. My position as a future Indigenous doctor, student ambassador for the Wollotuka Institute, Indigenous Representative for the University of Newcastle Medical Society and an active member within the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) would provide a unique perspective to my future practice. I hope to work as a GP in sexual health, addiction medicine and within the community to help improve health literacy.
I have already begun working to increase rural health care access and advocacy work for rural education. In 2019 I worked with the Hunter New England Diabetes Service to create diabetes education videos that can be accessed remotely anywhere in Australia. This information is being delivered through the sharing of stories, visual aids and nutritional education and in 2019 I present this project at the National AIDA Conference. This work has inspired me to become an advocate for health literacy and patient empowerment, especially within our Indigenous communities. By empowering individuals to access services, take control in their health management and maintain their health and wellness I believe I can contribute to providing better health outcomes for our community.
In addition to my work with the Diabetes Service, I was also selected to attend the BREAATHHE Rural High School Visit. A group of university students from multiple health disciplines and I attended high schools in Merriwa, Quirindi and Scone. The purpose of this visit was to encourage rural students to study a health discipline at a tertiary level. This became an invaluable experience which taught me the impact we can have on rural youth.
In 2018 there were around 200 Indigenous doctors in Australia with 300 students on their way. In order for parity for the Indigenous population, Australia needs at least 2,000 Indigenous doctors. If this scholarship can allow one more Indigenous student to graduate as a doctor, then it will help close the gap on medical officer disparity. I am committed to bridging the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous, city and country.
Current Progressive Report
As I sit writing this 6 monthly report, my only thought is of Keith and his family. Their generosity allowed me the financial freedom to focus on my studies and myself without the worry of ‘can I afford to continue my studies’. I will be forever grateful for Keith. He was a kind, gentle soul that I am so lucky to have met. He will forever be missed. I still hope to send his family a photo from my graduation, as without them it would not have been possible.
Half way through the year I relocated officially to Tamworth. Since then it has been one of the best experiences that I have ever had. I have been able to explore a new town, meet new people, discover passions and hobbies of mine too. I began in Neurology and saw some interesting cases and learnt from a wonderful local Neurologist. He was supportive with my learning and the team saw me as a junior doctor and facilitated additional learning opportunities. Around this time was when the Country Music Festival was on and Lee Kernighan was amazing! I have never been to the Country Music Festival but it is something I look forward to for at least the next two years.
Which leads me to the fact that I got Tamworth Hospital as my first preference for internship. The plan is to buy a house at the start of next year and start living as an adult and I can honestly and truly say that this scholarship is making that goal a reality for me. I know that I will struggle with being away from my family and friends (as they are interning in different LHDs) but I know that this is a new adventure for me and I look forward to every minute of it.
I am currently finishing up on my Orthopedic rotation which has been incredibly interesting, as it’s a different area of medicine. One thing I have learnt first hand from this rotation is the bed pressure, under-resourcing and under-staffing in rural hospitals is an incredibly massive issue! It’s been interesting to see how the hospitals adapt to these issues and how I am able to hopefully make a difference in the future.
I have started to engage with groups and communities outside of medicine which I feel would be really good for me. I have joined the local Pottery Club and I’ve started making Christmas presents for my friends and family. I have also joined the Astronomy Club where I am given lectures by incredible people who have a wealth of knowledge from their field.