A Flinders Darwin medical student with a long-term plan to work in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory is the recipient of the 2019 AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship.
Nikki Kastellorizios, a second-year medical student in the Flinders University NT Medical Program (Flinders NTMP) and mother of three, says her aim is to become the kind of doctor she would want her family to encounter when they need medical attention.
“I am a registered nurse, and chose to become a doctor as I feel I will have greater influence in making real change towards closing the gap that Indigenous Australians – my people – currently experience,” says Ms Kastellorizios
“Through my encounters accessing health care, and acting as a support person for family members, I have recognised the profound impact people’s experiences have on their health choices.
“Indigenous people who deal with culturally unaware professionals or services will often choose to avoid them in the future, and live with their deteriorating health, rather than try to access services that are not meeting their needs.
“I recognise that as an individual, I can’t change the world, but I can help to facilitate change in someone’s life, and subsequently their wider community, by building a therapeutic, culturally safe relationship based on trust and mutual respect.
“I hope our common heritage will give Indigenous patients a sense of ease, allowing me to be better able to holistically treat patients and help them improve their health, on their terms.”
AMA President Dr Tony Bartone presented Ms Kastellorizios with the award at the AMA National Conference in Brisbane, saying she is a deserving recipient of the $10,000-a-year scholarship.
“Her passion for medicine stems from experiencing and witnessing the barriers and difficulties Indigenous people face when accessing health care,” says Dr Bartone.
“Ms Kastellorizios has a clear determination to help improve the lives and health of Indigenous Australians. Her dedication and commitment in taking on a medical degree while bringing up three young children is commendable, as is her desire to inspire Indigenous youth to strive for higher education.”
Vice President and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine and Public Health, Professor Jonathan Craig, is delighted for Ms Kastellorizios and the NT Medical Program team.
“Making a difference begins with creating opportunity,” Professor Craig says.
“Flinders University provides scholarships to all its NT-based Indigenous medical students to support their ambitions, and the AMA’s generous scholarship will further strengthen the opportunities available to Nikki to achieve her aspirations and contribute meaningfully to the health and wellbeing of the Territory’s Indigenous communities,” he says.
“Flinders NTMP is fundamentally focused on enabling Territorians to study while remaining in the Territory, connected to their families and communities and developing the practical knowledge and experience matched to the NT’s unique needs.
“We recognise that Indigenous Australians can encounter far greater challenges in realising their potential and that programs such as the NTMP are critical to surmounting those challenges.
“We congratulate Nikki for her vision and dedication, and I thank our committed NTMP team for supporting her success.”
Ms Kastellorizios has a 10-year plan to work towards becoming a Fellow in her field after medical school, as part of the movement to improve Indigenous health.
“My 15 year-plus plan is to work in rural and remote areas of the Northern Territory once my children are grown up. While most Indigenous Australians live in metropolitan or regional areas, the most disadvantaged live in rural or remote Australia, and they need the most help,” she says.
“Throughout my journey, I also want to support and inspire other Indigenous people to become involved in the health sciences in whatever role they choose – health worker, nurse, doctor – to further empower families and communities.
“Every First Nations Australian who reaches for further education can create belief in the young, and others, that it is achievable.”
Since its initial intake in 2011 and first graduates in 2014, the NTMP with teaching sites in Darwin, Alice Springs, Katherine and Nhulunbuy has produced eight Indigenous doctors.
- The Australian Medical Association (AMA) also awarded this year’s prestigious AMA Gold Medal to Adelaide anaesthetist Dr Richard Harris – a distinguished Flinders University alumnus.
“Dr Harris is the 2019 Australian of the Year for South Australia, and the joint Australian of the Year with Dr Challen. He has been awarded Australia’s second-highest civilian bravery award, the Star of Courage (SC), the medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), and has been granted royal honours by the King of Thailand,” AMA President Dr Bartone says.
“Dr Richard Harris is truly a worthy winner of the AMA Gold Medal.”