Faculty of Health

Aboriginal community the focus of student’s medical studies

Studying medicine at the University of Tasmania is not just a step along a career path for Jake West - it is also a chance to provide much needed help to his community.

Mr West, who was welcomed alongside fellow Aboriginal first year medicine student Clair Whiteway last night at a special School of Medicine reception, said his journey into medicine was inspired by his father Mark.

“After going through the navy and breaking his own cycle, he came back to Tassie and has encouraged others within the Aboriginal community of Tasmania break that cycle as well.”

“He pushed forward and led the rest of his family through his own career path.

“His sisters (my aunts) now have a degree or are working towards it which is amazing, particularly to see what they have achieved, knowing the circumstances they grew up in.”

Inspired by his father, Mr West felt the best way to help his community was through medicine.

“There are massive issues within Aboriginal health in Australia and that is where I really want to help,” he said.

The family inspiration also goes further back to Jake’s great grandmother the late Aunty Ida West, who was a well-known advocate for Aboriginal rights and responsible for helping to establish the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

Mr West said he would like to see higher numbers of Aboriginal students pursue a career in medicine.

“It would be awesome to see the number of Aboriginal students at University grow, not just in Tasmania but right around the country,” he said.

“The Aboriginal community according to statistics is about three per cent of the Australian population while the percentage of Aboriginal doctors in Australia is just 0.003 per cent.

“That is a massive inequality.”

Mr West said Aboriginal students who came through University and became doctors could be very effective in Aboriginal communities.

“It is a very family orientated community and culture so by getting one of their own from that community to come out and train and then come back in, is possibly the best way to help close that health gap.”

While he hoped to specialise in general practice, Mr West said his focus was now firmly on getting through his studies.

“I’m definitely proud to be here and I’ve worked really hard to get here, so I really want to work hard to keep that up,” he said.

Last year’s University of Tasmania School of Medicine graduate Nikki Randriamahefa (MBBS) was also recognised and congratulated for her efforts at the reception.

The evening also included presentations from a panel of Aboriginal health professionals who shared their own journeys with the audience.