AIDA 25th Anniversary Member Stories Dr Crystal Williams

18 May 2022
Member Story

As part of our 25th Anniversary Celebrations, we are reaching out to our members from around the country to hear about the impact AIDA has had on their amazing careers.

Dr Crystal Williams (in scrubs) and Royal Melbourne Hospital Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Gabrielle Ebsworth

Dr Crystal got into studying dermatology while she was doing her internship and junior doctor training at Darwin Hospital, noticing there were limited dermatology services in the Northern Territory.

“I felt very keenly on the impact of having a dermatologist in the area at the time. There is very limited dermatology services in the Northern Territory, and there is still not the same level of access that other states enjoy,” she said.

“As a dermatology specialist, I felt that I would be able to offer a lot more medical care than what I would be able to offer otherwise.”

After becoming a senior registrar, Dr Crystal moved back to Melbourne, co – founding the First Nations Dermatology Service, run from the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Dr Crystal and her team had a simple goal in mind when starting the service: to improve global and First Nations access to specialist dermatology services.

“It started off as a very small project. It is now a dedicated clinic within The Royal Melbourne Hospital – one of the biggest hospitals in Melbourne, a place that traditionally hasn’t had a lot of First Nations doctors or patients. We have now created a physical and digital space for our patients there.”

The humble project was so successful that Dr Crystal and her team won The Telstra 2021 Brilliant Women in Digital Health Award for their incredible work.

“To then receive this national recognition for what was at the time an idea that we didn’t think or were even sure would work. It’s amazing!” Dr Crystal beams.

Using her Digital Health service has allowed Dr Crystal to connect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients around the country and consult with them, which she finds incredibly rewarding. She is also excited to be able to help more people as new advances take place in dermatology.

“We have seen people who have had very debilitating life impacting skin conditions that have impacted on their confidence, their weight, their career progression, and even how they have interacted in the community.”

“Seeing that all change very quickly with some of the medicines that we are able to prescribe. As a specialist, the fact that I am able to offer this is a very humbling experience,” she said.

Closing the Gap is something Dr Crystal is passionate about. She believes the key to Closing the Gap lies within the medical workforce.

“I still believe the key is with the workforce. The workforce has done so much in recent years to have a First Nations voice across a lot of medical colleges in Australia. I think fundamentally that is where the key is,” she said.

Dr Crystal commends the work AIDA has already done in this space, and hopes it continues to progress as a leader in First Nations Health.

“[AIDA] will continue to be the pivotal organisation for First Nations doctors in this country and an absolute force to be reckoned with at the negotiating table with the medical colleges. I love it,” she said.

“I think there were 50 First Nations Doctors when I started studying and now there’s hundreds. The growth is almost exponential, it’s so good to see”

Advocating for Digital Health, Dr Crystal hopes that more doctors will use the technology available to them to reach patients who need their support around the country.

“There’s an unmet need for digital health, it is really accessible for our communities and we’re in an age when it’s acceptable for doctors to use technology when reaching out to reach patients.”

18 May 2022