13 Questions with Pirpantji Rive-Nelson

12 Jun 2018
Member Story

Where you are from?

I am a Pitjantjatjara man from Central Australia area. I was born in Alice Springs, but I spent my childhood on my Father’s country in communities (Pipalyatjara and Irrunytju) on the Pitjantjatjara Lands around the SA/WA/NT border-region. However, I returned to Alice Springs for High School.

Where on the medical continuum are you?

I am in my final year of an MD with the University of Queensland. I was fortunate enough to be placed at the Toowoomba Rural Clinical School. Being from a remote community, I was extremely eager to learn in a rural location.

Current workplace or place of study?

I am currently on a surgical rotation in Orthopaedics, ENT, and Ophthalmology. It has been great to gain a deeper insight into this area, as I am hoping to pursue a career in surgical or anaesthetics.

What does a typical day of your life entail and how do you unwind after a day of work/study?

Much like most students in medicine, my day is based on routine and repetition with days spent in the hospital, and afternoons/evenings studying. Sadly, being so far from home, most of my interests and hobbies have been neglected. However, I am into outdoor stuff such as going out bush, hiking, hunting and shooting, plus I am a massive fan of motorbikes, with two back home. Whilst in Toowoomba, I stay active and do boxing and visit mates.

Who or what was your biggest inspiration in becoming a doctor?

My greatest inspiration to study medicine and persevere with it, has been the lack of Aboriginal doctors, and other health professionals, in my life and community. Furthermore, I am driven to completing my studies, so that I can join the incredible individuals that make up AIDA, who have the shared desire of contributing to greater patient outcomes, for our people.

Has AIDA supported you through your studies/career? If so, how?

AIDA has supported me with student scholarship to attend annual conferences. Attending the annual conference has provided me with guidance and motivation. The guidance I have gained has been through the exposure to experienced clinicians and training programs. I have found it motivating meeting other mob, who also have great life stories, and have done amazing things in Indigenous medicine.

Have you encountered any culturally safety issues during your studies/career?

I have mostly been fortunate in medicine, and not been put into many compromising positions, but I am sometimes seen as a source of all-encompassing knowledge on Aboriginal health and culture, during tutorials or interactions with consultants. Sadly, I do not have all the answers. Although I am usually happy to talk about my life or culture, as I place a great emphasis on positive representation of my people and culture. However, I have had to endure some casual racism during medicine. But I mostly have positive and pleasant experiences.

What inspires you within the medical profession?

I am inspired by the impact that doctors make in my home communities. I think we are truly fortunate to have a public health care system. My people in Central Australia are so sick, and dependent on the Alice Springs Hospital and primary care facilities. Working with doctors back in Central Australia who deliver health care to the highly diverse group of Aboriginal people that speak multiple languages, other than English is an inspiration to me. As I feel that it requires a high level of communication, to be able to deliver messages and converse with patients of different cultures, to their own. I hope that more people in the medical workforce practice medicine in remote locations during their career.

Have you been a mentee or mentor? What has your experience been?

I have only recently gained mentor relationships with some ENT consultants and registrar, which is an area of interest for me. I attended the recent RACS annual conference, and I had the opportunity to meet Dr Kelvin Kong, and we discussed a career plan into surgery. Having the opportunity to speak to someone so highly experienced about my career aspirations was invaluable.

What field of medicine is your passion?

My sole passion in medicine revolves around making contributions to the improvement of the health of Aboriginal people of Central Australia. I have composed some patient education material in my Pitjantjatjara language, and I hope to make more. My aim is to increase my people’s engagement in health care through education. Furthermore, I hope being visible in the community, will encourage other people back home to consider a career in medicine.

Have you won any awards/prizes/scholarships or other notable achievements?

During medicine I have been awarded the Nganampa Health Council Tertiary student scholarship, NHC is our local health care providers and they have supported me for many years. Other scholarships include the Royal Australian College of Surgeons Career Enhancement Scholarship. Most notably I was recently awarded the Australian Medical Association Indigenous Medical Student Scholarship, which was a massive honour and personal achievement. Furthermore, my patient education movie ‘Kapulpa Pikatjara Nyinantja – Living with chronic kidney disease: A Pitjantjatjara resource’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgIjvo0oQTo ) was awarded by the University of Queensland as the most Innovative Community Health Project.

What do you see/hope to achieve in your future?

My greatest hope is that with organisations like AIDA and more of us Indigenous people performing jobs such as medicine, that it will lead to more young school kids studying hard and pursuing professions in medicine, or health care.

Are you looking forward to the AIDA Conference 2018 in Perth? If so, why?

I am really looking forward to the 2018 AIDA Conference in Perth as I have begun to come familiar with the some of the people that attend, and I am hoping to further develop professional relationships within AIDA. Please come and say hello if you see me.

Photo caption: My Kuta (Brother) Andy Tjilari, who was well known in the AIDA community, and I dancing Inma Ngintaka. This photo was featured in ‘Ngangkari Work – Anangu Way’, page 32.

12 Jun 2018