Megan Torpey
Megan Torpey

Megan Torpey

Indigenous Health Scholarship 2023

University of New South Wales, NSW
Charles Sturt University, NSW

Scholarship Awarded 2019

Sponsored by:
Keith Henning ‘City to Surf’

Indigenous Health Scholarship Program

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

Aboriginal community controlled organisations and community members alike have long been campaigning for the importance and necessity for autonomy and culturally appropriate care in the healthcare sector. With growing epidemics across all aspects of health, we as Indigenous Australians not only suffer increased rates of mortality and morbidity than other non-Indigenous peers, but we are also affected by the often inappropriate and inadequate care that we do receive. Through the combination of my previous public health training (Master of Public Health) and experience working in the Indigenous Health sector I hope to combine my medical degree to add to the breadth of my skills, allowing me to treat and medically care for my people as well as play a role in educating and preventing inappropriate and inequitable health outcomes within our mainstream health communities. Through these efforts, I hope to ensure that Indigenous patients experience evidence based medical care that is also culturally appropriate, empowering and compassionate.

My interest to participate and contribute to culturally appropriate healthcare largely stems from my family’s own personal story of child removal and forced adoption. Such trauma has ignited a commitment in me to challenge past Australian policies which are both grossly outdated and radically inappropriate in their lack of acknowledgement of Indigenous health need and ways.

I will use my role in this space to educate others around me to improve the knowledge and expertise that mainstream teams have, to provide other appropriately trained professionals that we Koori doctors can work alongside ensuring culturally safe practices across all aspects of care.

Current Progressive Report

This photo was taken at the Albury Eye Clinic where 5th year Doctor of Medicine Student Meg Torpey spent time learning from the Ophthalmology team at the Albury Eye Clinic in regional New South Wales.

2023 teaching began with the highlight of my term, a placement with the Albury Eye Clinic. Here I was able to shadow the ophthalmologists and nursing team to learn about regional eye health. This included a very rewarding day accompanying Dr. Paul Giles, Ophthalmologist and Dr. Racheal Jeffery, Ophthalmology Registrar in the Wodonga theatres where I was able to oversee cataract lens surgery.

Participating in this placement was extremely rewarding. I thoroughly enjoyed the patient interactions in the clinic rooms where the ophthalmology team weaved patient education into their post operative consults. One of the patients that I saw was Aboriginal, and upon seeing me, in my Indigenous health worker shirt, she was delighted to be greeted with an Indigenous face. While waiting for her eye test results, we spoke about her patient journey and again she expressed her surprise and delight of having someone to speak to, who knew the importance of eye health in Aboriginal communities. She shared her family’s struggles with diabetes, glaucoma and cataracts and encouraged me to come out to her local town to educate patients on the ease and benefits of having cataract surgery. She explained that an overwhelming proportion of people she knew were too scared to seek care despite their eyesight deterioration. When I asked why she thought this was the case, she gave me a knowing look. “They don’t want to have to go into the hospital, they are scared. They know so many people that go to hospital and die, and never come back out”.

This historic barrier to accessing care for Aboriginal clients has long been acknowledged as a driving force for culturally appropriate care in mainstream health settings.  Having started my journey into medicine after spending time at the Indigenous Eye Health Unit, with Professor Hugh Taylor, this placement drew together all my interests of health and the practice of medicine. The need for eye health in regional setting such as Albury is apparent from the overwhelming number of patients who travel for hours to access their care. This, coupled with the 6 months wait time or more to see an eye specialist illustrates the need for doctors to work in regional areas. As I draw towards the final stage of my medical training, I am more committed than ever to support our regional communities. And my work, which started as a project officer in eye health a decade ago, is coming full circle.

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