Scholarship supports Indigenous students

Taylee Healy and SA Health Minister John Hill
Taylee Healy and SA Health Minister John Hill

A new State Government scholarship for Indigenous medical students will enhance the care of Aboriginal people because they will be more inclined to visit an Indigenous doctor and share information about their symptoms, according to medical student Taylee Healy.

Ms Healy said she was aware of many Indigenous people who walked out of consultations because the GP had not been able to spend enough time with the patient.

“There is always more behind the symptoms for Indigenous people because they really need to talk about their symptoms and we need doctors who will take the time to listen. If the doctor does not have the time to listen the patient is not going to come back,” Ms Healy said.

Ms Healy, a first-year medical student at Flinders University, was speaking at the launch on Friday of the Southern Adelaide LHN Bonded Aboriginal Medical Scholarship Scheme by the Minister for Health and Ageing, John Hill.

“We see statistics all the time of low birth weights, high chronic disease rates, early deaths and suicides in the Indigenous community, and I find that really confronting. But the thing that really hits home for me is living it and spending time with my family – suiciding, with chronic disease and having aunties and uncles who don’t make it through their 60s and cousins every year losing the battle to mental health,” Ms Healy said.

Minister Hill said there are currently seven Aboriginal students studying medicine at Flinders University, who could apply for the first scholarship – which is valued at up to $100,000 over four years.

“Financial insecurity is one of the biggest factors holding back Aboriginal students from completing the medical program, so we hope that this scholarship will take the pressure off financially and allow the student to focus on their studies,” Mr Hill said.

Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Well-being at Flinders University, Professor Dennis McDermott, said the scheme would help the University to graduate more Aboriginal doctors.

“Many Aboriginal medical students are mature students, who may have given up secure employment to become a graduate entry student,” Professor McDermott said.

“They often have dependants to support, along with a range of extended family responsibilities.

“We’ve been working for some time at the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health and Wellbeing at Flinders to improve our recruitment to expand opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to study medicine.

“Through our partnership with the Southern Adelaide Local Area Health Network, we’ll now be in a better position to retain more of those potential doctors to successful graduation.”

Professor McDermott said the place where a doctor was trained, and how welcoming that experience was, had a particular influence on where that doctor eventually practiced.

“This program, once fully implemented, could boost the numbers of Adelaide-based Aboriginal doctors. In turn, that would – in a number of ways ranging from better access to health services, to more culturally-safe hospitals – open up new possibilities to tackle aspects of Aboriginal health that we know are eminently fixable,” Professor McDermott said.

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