Indigenous doctors, coming to a hospital near you
Dr Angus McNally, Dr Paul Saunders, Dr Rachel Farrelly, The Honorable Tanya Plibersek MP, and Dr Anysia Den
The University of Western Sydney’s recent Summer Graduation ceremonies saw four high-achieving Indigenous medical students make the transition to university graduate, hospital intern and junior doctor.
Anysia Den, Angus McNally, Rachel Farrelly and Paul Saunders have all completed the University’s intensive five-year Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program.
The Honourable Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for Health, delivered the Occasional Address at the December 20 graduation ceremony and took the opportunity to congratulate the doctors on their achievements.
Dr Anysia Den is a 39-year-old mother of two, who previously studied at UWS in the 1990s. Dr Den’s initial double degree in science and teaching led to a career that included lecturing first-year students in statistics before she decided to retrain as a doctor.
“I think I have always had an interest in medicine, but even more so when I became a mother to my two sons,” says Dr Den.
“The body has always fascinated me and to this very day it never ceases to amaze me – I always read or hear about something new that makes me stop and go ‘wow, my body actually does that.’ It is truly incredible.”
Dr Den, who resides in Abbotsford in Sydney’s inner-west, is commencing work this month as an intern at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. Following her internship Dr Den plans to train as a GP, open her own practice, and spend a few months of each year working with Indigenous communities in remote areas of Australia.
Professor Annemarie Hennessy, Dean of the School of Medicine, and Dr Anysia Den
Dr Angus McNally is 22 and a resident of Breakfast Point in Sydney. When Dr McNally approached the completion of high school he considered many potential careers. His decision to study medicine was the result of a “nagging feeling” that was always at the back of his mind.
“No matter how many months or years went by, I would always come back to it. No one in my family was a doctor so I’m not sure where it came from, but when it came time to apply I knew it was the right thing to do,” says Dr McNally.
Dr McNally says UWS “held a particular pull” due to its status as an undergraduate medical program that offered hands-on, practical learning options. After settling at UWS he says he felt right at home with his “massive family” at the School of Medicine.
Dr McNally will spend the next two years as an intern at Liverpool Hospital, with medical and surgical rotations at Fairfield and Tweed Hospitals. With “so many choices” in his future Dr McNally has not yet settled on a specialty, but is considering a career in sports medicine.
Dr Rachel Farrelly is 23-years-old and grew up in Orange before she enrolled in the MBBS program and began living on-campus at UWS.
“Medicine has not been without its challenges. The biggest for me has been leaving my home community in Orange to study in Sydney. However, the ability to give back to my community and represent the positive contribution of Aboriginal people in this prestigious field has definitely made the sacrifice worthwhile,” says Dr Farrelly.
After an internship and residency at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Dr Farrelly has an ambitious goal of becoming Australia’s first female Aboriginal Orthopaedic Surgeon.
Dr Rachel Farrelly
Dr Paul Saunders is 24 and a resident of Narellan in Sydney’s south-west. Initially drawn to a career in physiotherapy, his path diverged to medicine when the UWS School of Medicine “emerged” in his backyard.
Dr Saunders says the MBBS program was an appealing prospect due to its location in Campbelltown; its focus on giving undergraduate students hands-on experience in hospitals; and its intention to create opportunities for Indigenous students.
Professor Annemarie Hennessy, Dean of the School of Medicine at UWS, says the University understands the importance having doctors of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background.
“By helping more Indigenous people become capable doctors, who are able to go out and make a difference in Australian communities, UWS is helping to ‘close the gap’ between the life expectancy of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians,” says Professor Hennessy.
“We are very proud of all of our graduates, and especially so of those who have overcome extreme barriers to complete of such a demanding course.”
22 January 2013
Photos: Sally Tsoutas