UNSW's first Indigenous medical graduate from the Shalom Gamarada scholarship program will begin work as a doctor this month in western Sydney.
Beth Kervin, who received the scholarship in her second year, said the support from the scholarship kept her "afloat" during the demanding six-year medicine degree.
Valued at $15,000 annually for tuition and board at UNSW's Shalom College, the scholarship aims to increase the number of Indigenous Australians studying and practising medicine.
Founded by UNSW Professor Lisa Jackson-Pulver, the program has so far assisted 21 students to study medicine, optometry and medical sciences, with 10 students currently living at the college. Scholarships are largely funded by an annual exhibition and sale of Indigenous art organised by the college.
"When I first started studying, the pressure from four hours of daily travel from outside Liverpool and my part-time job really took its toll," said 24-year old Beth, who will begin work this month as a doctor at Campbelltown and Bankstown hospitals.
"Getting the scholarship meant I was close to classes with access to support and a study environment without distractions. I could not just survive medicine but actually enjoy it."
There are only 140 Indigenous doctors and 137 Indigenous medical students in Australia, with Indigenous students comprising 0.9% of medical enrolments.
Inspired to embark on medicine by her uncle and aunt who are both nurses, Beth said supportive networks and Indigenous role models were key to increasing the numbers of indigenous doctors.
"With long hours and being among so many incredibly bright students, it was easy to feel dejected," she said.
"But I had a brilliant network I could turn to for support ranging from Lisa Jackson-Pulver to staff at Nura Gili, the Australian Indigenous Medical Doctors Association and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).
"They told me what I can now tell others - if I can do it you can too."
Beth successfully completed UNSW's Indigenous Pre-Medicine Program, which is jointly run through Nura Gili and the Faculty of Medicine. All those who graduate from the program qualify for entry into the Bachelor of Medicine/Surgery.
Watch the video about the Indigenous pre-medicine program here
Media contact : Ellie Wong | 9385 8107 or firstname.lastname@example.org