Patrick Paasila
Patrick Paasila

Patrick Paasila

Indigenous Health Scholarship

Western Sydney University, NSW

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery
Scholarship Awarded 2022

Sponsored by:
PDG Stephen & Judith Humphreys

Indigenous Health Scholarship Program

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

I was born and grew up in South Western Sydney (Dharawal country). I am of Wiradjuri descent on my mother’s side and Finnish on my father’s. My Aboriginal roots go back to Bulgandramine Mission near Peak Hill in central New South Wales. The family has actually been fortunate enough to trace our ancestry back to James Nerang, who was a tracker for NSW Police at the turn of the 19th –20th century. His daughter, Sarah Waterloo, was my great great grandmother. I am grateful to be studying at university so that once I have graduated I can advocate for and the improve representation of Indigenous issues in the Australian health system.

I started my studies in the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program in 2014. I completed the first two years with a Distinction average (Dean’s Merit List; top 10% of medical students) and then took leave to complete a research degree (BMedRes). I then took further leave with the approval of the Dean to undertake a Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Sydney. I graduated my PhD last year in December having successfully published three first-author manuscripts (PMIDs: 30803086; 34396367; 33682204) and with other published contributions (PMID: 33649380). I also resumed my medical studies last year, entering Year 3 of the program. This year I published a review (prepared and submitted for review last year) in the field of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (PMID: 35095394) and I have entered Year 4 of MBBS. I recently received news that my research proposal for an Honours qualification was approved, so I look forward to continuing research in AD. I hope to be actively engaged in AD research throughout my life with the aim of alleviating its burden in my local community with a focus on Indigenous health given that AD affects Aboriginals 3–5 times higher than the general population.

I am a keen learner and I have a proven record of academic achievement in both undergraduate studies and higher degree research. I will use the skills I have acquired throughout my tertiary education to improve the lives of my future patients. I will also be actively engaged in AD research throughout my life with the aim of reducing it’s overall burden in the general population and in Aboriginal communities in particular. Greater focus will need to be placed on AD as it is likely to be the leading cause of death and single biggest healthcare cost in Australia by the middle of the century. I have been extremely fortunate in the amount of support I have received from my family, friends, peers, and the wider community; it has got me to where I am now and I hope to pay this forward many times over in the future.

Current Progressive Report

I am on to my fifth and final year of my medical degree at WSU! By year’s end I will be finishing up my tenth year at university so I’m very much looking forward to graduating and moving on with my work. My progress during the second half of last year was quite difficult for health reasons, but I’m glad to say I’m back on track to meet the challenges of this year. My placements for this year are on gastroenterology and vascular surgery at Nepean Hospital; critical care and anaesthetics at Blacktown Hospital; plastic and reconstructive surgery and renal medicine at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; community GP; and the Werin Aboriginal Corporation Medical Centre at Port Macquarie. I may also have the opportunity to apply for an Assistant in Medicine (AiM) position which is a paid position being made available to final year medical students during the second half of the year.

I enjoyed my clinical placements on mental health at the new Campbelltown Hospital facilities and obstetrics/gynaecology at Fairfield Hospital during second semester. It’s been a real marathon getting to this point and the support I get from family, friends, mentors, the Rotary Club, and academic supervisors has been essential for me to persevere. It’s been hard work but it’s not without its rewards; I keep going because I find it personally fulfilling studying and working in medicine (I still get simple enjoyment by getting lost in the details of my studies) and what’s more is that I know I can have a positive impact on my community and broader society, particularly over the longer term.

I am also keen to keep up my research activities in affiliation with the BTRC at The University of Sydney in collaboration with a data science lab group at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, USA.

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