Indigenous Health Scholarship 2022
Monash University, VIC
Bachelor of Medicine
Scholarship Awarded 2020
Rotary Club of Mornington/Boronia Medical Centre
How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?
Last year, I attended my Grandmother’s funeral; I never got the opportunity to meet her in person. As a very young girl, she was stolen from her home in NT and raised on a mission. She was institutionalised until she was 21 in what was described as ‘an experiment in assimilation’. Her son, my father, was also forcibly removed, this time at his birth, and sadly, as a result, he has grown up with identity issues, anxiety, depression and addiction; I have barely seen him for most of my life.
My story, although sad, is a common one for Indigenous Australians. Through assimilation policies, my connection to the Jawoyn culture has been fractured, as has my connection to key family members. From my own life experiences, I have seen first-hand the way these kinds of realities affect people mentally and physically; my own teenage years were an extremely challenging time. The turning point in my own life occurred in my late teens, when I met my biological uncle Robbie for the first time, and witnessed the life he has created, despite the difficulties he faced growing up. He serves his community in Swan Hill working in schools with Indigenous youth. When I met him, I saw the sense of fulfilment and connection to culture he had been able to establish by serving his community and helping young people who were ‘at risk,’ as he had once been. From observing his interactions, it was very clear to see that he has found his sense of purpose.
From that moment, I was completely inspired and understood that the key to my own happiness was also working to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians. For me, that would be through health-care, as a Doctor. I understand that the shocking disparity in health outcomes between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians is intrinsically linked to the additional challenges that many Indigenous Australians face such as: racism, family dislocation and loss of culture and land, disempowerment and poverty. These kinds of challenges not only affect people’s emotional well-being, but also their physical well-being and ultimately, their mortality.
Living remotely means that many Indigenous Australians do not have adequate access to medical care, and research suggests that frequently, the medical care they do receive often lacks cultural sensitivity, with 25% of Indigenous Australians indicating they have experienced racism during medical care. I am determined to address these barriers to health for indigenous Australians when I graduate. I intend to work in remote communities and while it would be an absolute dream, to one day, work in my Grandmother’s Jawoyn country, I know that I will receive fulfilment from working in any remote community. I have a keen interest in addressing the high percentage of Indigenous people suffering from diabetes and associated complications such as renal failure. Similarly, fuelled by the disproportionate statistics, as well as my own father’s personal challenges, I am interested in addressing addictions and mental health. I am passionate about ensuring that I provide patient-centred health care, which is culturally sensitive and respectful of differences, such as indirect communication styles. I intend to bring informed methods to my practice which have been shown to enhance the comfort of Indigenous Australians seeking medical treatment such as clinical yarning and to focus on the whole person. I believe my own life experiences including family dislocation and loss of culture has positioned me to appreciate the connection between emotional pain and physical health and to understand the need for individuals to live empowered lives with strong connections to supportive communities and country. This in turn, will enhance the efficacy of medical interventions provided.
Current Progressive Report
This year I was lucky to find out I was placed at Monash Medical Centre for my third year of my medical degree. After having a break, I started semester 2 in my first surgical rotation. Cardiothoracic surgery was a very different but eye-opening rotation. I never quite got use to the early starts having to be at the hospital at 6.45am for an early ward round. I was so excited to stand in on my first cardiothoracic surgery. I was lucky to be with a 5th year and a good teaching surgeon to watch my first pleurodesis. This surgery was a great introduction and I learnt at a lot.
My next rotation was general medicine. It was vastly different to ward rounds in cardiothoracic surgery where they would be over before 8am and instead ended well into the afternoon. I was placed with Omega team and two other 5th years. This team was very lovely and teaching for students seemed to be a strong priority which meant I got some opportunities to help do some jobs like write notes for patients and help create a discharge summary.
Other teachings that continued this semester included bedside tutorials. My teaching doctor is very helpful and provides a lot of feedback which really helps to develop my bedside skills. We would usually find patients throughout the morning and then go and examine the patients with her or take a history. Examinations would range from cardiac, gastrointestinal, respiratory, cranial nerves and peripheral examinations. The patients we were able to access were also so happy to help with our learning which made the process so easy. Each week there would always be some nerves entering the tutorial as sometimes it was assessed, however, after it was done it was always a relief and generally, we were all very happy with how we went, or it was clear where we needed to strengthen.
This semester we completed our second research assignment on a research question we created on cohort study. My research question was examining how number of antenatal visits may impact the risk of a preterm birth or mortality. I was particularly interested in looking at this question in a rural environment. My study I chose was set in a rural province in Bangladesh. It was interesting to see how important and significant antenatal visits truly are and how they need to be prioritised for pregnant women. It is something I am interested in taking into my future career, hopefully one day working in a rural setting an helping to strengthen care for pregnant women.
I continued to attend tutorials set up by nurses to help with our clinical skills. This semester the rooms were set up at MMC rather than Casey which was easier to access. I learnt various skills this semester such as urine dipstick analysis, catheter insertion, PR examinations and I also attended a revision session for cannulas and taking blood.
On Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays we had core teaching over zoom. These teaching were always very interactive and helped cover core content known as matrix that will be examined in our exams at the end of the year. Topics are extensive in content but always very interesting.
This semester we started a program known as Meet the Professor, where two people in our group present a case to a professor. So far, I have presented two cases and have one more surgical case to present. These really help provide some insight into how we one day will be expected to present back to doctors as junior doctors.
I have also been lucky to access some tutoring sessions on the side with a 4th year who was just completed her research year. Being taught by an older student is very helpful as they have just recently learnt the content and can provide tips and tricks on how to remember core learning as well a hat to expect going into exams.
Last week we had our first MONSCE practice. This meant over zoom I was to take the history of a patient that presented with shortness of breath, interpret an X-ray to the examiner and explain the treatment to the patient. From my top differentials after taking history, I determined that the patient had pneumonia. It was good practice and I realised from this that there were some areas I needed to work on still such as not using too many technical terms and asking more open-ended questions, as it would help gather more information.
This semester so far has been enjoyable and reflecting I realise how much I have done and learnt. I am so thankful to have the support I do around me, it helps during the tough times and pushes me to keep learning. I am excited to see what the rest of this year brings.