Renee Schiffler
Renee Schiffler

Renee Schiffler

Indigenous Health Scholarship

University of New South Wales, NSW

Doctor of Medicine
Scholarship Awarded 2021

Sponsored by:
Paul & Julia Reid/Rotary Club of Wetherill Park

Indigenous Health Scholarship Program

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

My name is Renee Schiffler and I am a fifth year medical student studying at UNSW. Being of Marri Ngarr decent and growing up in Alice Springs I have personally experienced the disparity in the health of my peoples from an early age. While some aspects of health are changing for the better, there is still a lot of work to be done. Currently, my people are almost 3 times likely to suffer mental illness, hearing problems that lead to life long hearing deficit, and die before the age of five. Issues such as these cause life long suffering for individuals and families that inevitably leads to further disparity. Prevention is key, and it is my motivation to continue my training and cater my work to improving the health of my community. With the skills that I am developing I wish to contribute to the holistic health and spiritual well-being that will strengthen the future of the world’s longest surviving culture.

In my early career as a registered nurse I regularly volunteered for the BOND Children’s Christmas camp. This camp was for children with special needs and provided much needed respite for families in the week leading up to Christmas. I was responsible for general health, medication needs, and assisted carers with hygiene and daily activity support Through this work I built an appreciation for children health and recognised the vulnerability of certain populations. This was a further driving factor to pursue medicine and build an ability to give back to my own community.

In 2016 I was admitted to the undergraduate Medicine Program at the University of New South Wales. Throughout my studies and more specifically my 4th year thesis, I have become even more determined to pursue a career in medicine where I can work in rural communities. My research thesis ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences and Children’s Access to Intervention and Support’ which focused on the paediatric population of South Western Sydney further developed my interest in the field of disadvantaged child health. This research also developed my understanding of the mental health needs of first nations children, and I am driven to eventually pursue work in paediatric mental health as my future career.

I enter my final years with a view of work in remote Northern Territory communities following graduation as a doctor in 2022. Access to health care is a major burden that many NT communities experience, and I would love to return home and provide healthcare that is local, culturally appropriate and consistent.

Current Progressive Report

Semester 1 2023, WOW! This year is flying by, and as I sit here writing my final sponsor report, I realise I’m only weeks out from my final exams! This year so far has been invaluable for my development as a senior medical student. I was lucky enough to complete a term in Paediatrics at the hospital I will be starting internship at next year. It was a great taster of the broad and interesting work that comes through that centre. Completing my placement there and working with the families of that area contributed to my decision to apply for internship in that network, and I’m very grateful for the experience.

Completing my paediatrics term after becoming a mother myself challenged me in many ways too, at times I found it a challenge to take my “mum hat” off and put my “doctor in training” hat on. However, experiencing this also made me reflect on the qualities of the fantastic paediatricians that I worked with.  Many of them were parents themselves and had developed such finesse in demonstrating both empathy and professionalism. I noted that these qualities in a paediatrician were incredibly therapeutic for the families and children they worked with.   I aspire to hone the balance of such skills in my own practice and appreciate the richness that being a parent brings to all aspects of life.

More recently, I have been in emergency and ICU which have been fantastic placements to complete prior to exams. I have been able to really improve my patient assessment, and examination skills. These placements are my final terms of my degree and as I near graduation I endeavour to enjoy the last few weeks of student life and prepare as best I can for finals. Again, I could not have done this without the support of my wonderful sponsors and Rotary. Thank you, Paul & Julia Reid and Rotary Club of Wetherill Park.

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