AS 2020 comes to a close, medical students across the country are celebrating and anticipating the next stage of their journeys into medicine.
For Marlee Paterson, it marks the end of six years at the University of New South Wales, far from her home town of Mareeba in north Queensland.
“I always knew I wanted to study medicine from a young age. When mum used to go see the GP, I could see how he really helped her out…I thought, I could be that someone, I could help people,” she said.
Marlee volunteered on her school holidays at Mulungu, her local Aboriginal Medical Centre, where she would clean, watch the staff and go on home visits into her community.
“I loved the environment. I’d go every school holidays and get inspired,” she said.
Through hard work in high school and a preparation for medicine course, she began her studies at UNSW.
Marlee said studying medicine is a tough but rewarding path, and connecting with other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors encouraged her to keep going when study was wearing her down.
“I think medicine can wear your energy down, and going to the AIDA conference a few years ago was really inspiring,” she said.
“It reminds you why you’re there. You’ve got younger students looking up to you, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors consulting and meeting.
“It’s great to meet up once a year to catch up and see their journeys through medicine, what they’re doing – especially when a lot of us don’t come from doctors in families. We may be the first ones in our families to finish high school or attend university.
“Going to the conference was the reminder I needed to go ‘hey, it’s a real privilege to study medicine, and I’m really grateful to do the journey with so many other future Aboriginal doctors in Australia’.”
By researching more effective learning techniques, making full use of her tutors and engaging in study groups, Marlee was able to manage her studies and power through to graduation.
“Coming in from high school you quickly realise rote learning doesn’t work in medicine – there’s just too much information you need to comprehend,” she said.
“Active recall is the most effective. I did that by learning about one topic, then testing myself straight away. The act of trying to recall it immediately gets those neurons firing and it lays down those pathways,” she said.
“It’s made the last two phases very smooth.”
Marlee will graduate from UNSW with seven other Indigenous students in December, and will be taking on an internship at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney in the new year.