How would the Australian Rotary Rural Health Scholarship help with my studies at the Rural Clinical School?
James Cook University’s focus of training medical graduates to be responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and that of northern Australian communities is one of the many reasons why I chose to complete a Bachelor of Medicine/Surgery. The health needs and discordance of services available to those living rurally and remotely is generally common knowledge to all Australians.
What else is common knowledge is that the majority of the population in these areas are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and their unique way of life, co-morbidities and health needs of these people are significantly different to those of the average Australian.
Personally, I grew up here in Cairns, living in a small remote community in the Trinity Inlet, near Yarrabah called Giangurra which translates to ‘village of the wild rose thorn’. Funnily enough my mother was the only one whom planted roses in the entire community; maybe the Aboriginal people changed the name from Bessie Point to Giangurra in homage to her diligence. It was in this setting that I grew up alongside Aboriginal people, many whom I still go home to visit and reminisce on our childhood together. What seemed to me at the time to be the norm, I soon discovered after leaving for schooling that many of the socioeconomic factors and chronic diseases experienced by these people, were an extreme deviation from the norm: alcohol fuelled violence, lack of access to medical services, lack of education, lack of adequate housing, little to no transport, poor diet, Diabetes and the list goes on. Growing up, I attended boarding school at St Augustine’s College in Cairns and later St Joseph’s Nudgee College, and was further exposed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and the difficulties and struggles they face in their day to day lives that some, if not all of us, never really get any appreciation.
The Indigenous community of Giangurra where I still call home is where my passion for change first piqued. I still consider them my people and where I want to affect change the most. I believe the Australian Rotary Health Scholarship will help finance my dream of being able to one day return to country with the ability to affect change and improve the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As a medical practitioner, I hope to become a doctor who can make significant contributions to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in many other communities just like the one I grew up in. As a child we used to sing the classic ‘I am, you are, we are Australian’ by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton of The Seekers. I still hum these lyrics when traversing the wards to this day; these very words define my purpose and willingness to serve others, regardless of ethnicity or colour, “I am, you are, we are Australian.”
2017 was an amazing and exciting year; albeit difficult, but nevertheless rewarding. Last year saw me achieve many things such as the opportunity to be a rotary scholarship recipient, travel to Lautoka, Fiji for three weeks for an Obstetrics and Gynaecology rotation and finally complete my last set of exams for my medical degree. The second last year of the JCU medical degree has always been rumoured to be the most difficult, and boy were the rumours true!
The six rotations covered were: medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry, general practice and paediatrics. Each rotation consisted of six weeks and a one-week break was given following the completion of two consecutive terms. This made it difficult to stay on top of the workload as we were juggling long hours at the hospital, study, personal life, assignments and sign offs for each and every rotation. When reflecting over the year, the most difficult aspect was finding time to study each subject, as well as revise content from previous years.
The long days were arduous and the long hours of study more so. The end of the year saw the culmination of every year at medical school being tested across three papers. Nerves were high, but stakes were higher, and this saw some crumble. After a year of dedication, hard work and determination, I had passed my exams. The relief that this long and tiresome year was over, no words could describe. I’d love to thank God for getting me through all the hard times, and special mention to my family and friends for their continued support and encouragement.
Finally, I would like to thank Rotary Health and Cheryl Deguara as well as special mention to Layne Gardiner, President of Rotary Club of Cairns for the blessing of the scholarship afforded to me. One of the many things in life to worry about is finances, and this scholarship allowed me to pursue my studies wholeheartedly and not have any financial concern. This year has allowed me to be exposed to a number of specialties and at this point in time I am currently applying for a position in the Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway, which will fast track my training and will allow me to serve rural and remote communities in the foreseeable future.