An Aboriginal enrolled nurse and an Aboriginal health worker who were the very first students in UWA's Advanced Diploma in Medical and Aboriginal Health Sciences have just been accepted into medicine.
Rhys Radcliffe (22) and Candice Rawson (24) will train to become doctors, starting next year.
The University of Western Australia's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences is breaking new ground by offering pathways and courses for Aboriginal people to enter postgraduate education to become doctors, dentists and podiatrists.
"Irrespective of whether or not they completed school, the Advanced Diploma offers Aboriginal people with experience working in the health industry, the opportunity for university study that will prepare them to undertake health professional courses like Medicine," said course coordinator Associate Professor Jasmine Lamb.
"UWA has long been committed to Indigenous education," said Professor Dawn Bessarab, Director of UWA's Centre of Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health. "The first Aboriginal doctor in Australia graduated from UWA in 1983. Over the years our dedicated staff have enabled 29 doctors and two dentists to graduate, a success shared by very few Australian universities. Five students completed Medicine this year at UWA."
Rhys was an Aboriginal Health Worker at the Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service and Candice was an enrolled nurse at Princess Margaret and King Edward Memorial hospitals. They are both Yamatji people: Rhys's people are from Shark Bay and Candice's people are from Payne's Find.
"I'd like to be a GP back in my home town of Geraldton," Rhys said. "I'm interested in learning to treat the diseases that affect people in my Community, such as diabetes and kidney disease. I believe it's important for Aboriginal patients to have a doctor from their community who they know can treat them with respect, and who can listen to them."
"I'd say to enrolled nurses who might be thinking about a career in medicine, believe in yourself, it's possible," Candice said. "There's lots of support and there are scholarships available. If you're really interested in it and are prepared to work hard, you can do it."
Increasing the number of Aboriginal health professionals within Aboriginal communities is recognised as a high priority in ‘closing the gap' and improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people interested in doing the Advanced Diploma in 2015 should contact Associate Professor Lamb by the end of January.