What makes a successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctor?

10 May 2016
Member Story

Dr Sarah McEwan is an AIDA member who likes to keep herself busy. With three fellowships to her name and a host of academic qualifications, Sarah has achieved a great deal in her relatively brief career to date. Sarah is currently enrolled in a Masters of Health Administration and is working on a research proposal titled ‘What Makes a Successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Doctor?’ Ward Round caught up with Sarah recently to talk about her latest research.

Ward Round (WR): AIDA is focussed on supporting and enabling our members and it seems like your research topic is taking a strengths-based approach to understanding the success of AIDA’s graduate members.

Sarah McEwan (SM): Yes. There’s not much published data on reasons why or how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students become successful doctors. Most of the factors that we know about are the negatives that contribute to why success is not attained, rather than what works; and this is largely anecdotal. I want to concentrate more on what has worked for those who have been successful in becoming doctors.

WR: So your research is a fairly original topic then?

SM: This will largely be an exploratory research project. I think it is an untapped topic and my preliminary literature review has revealed very little in terms of relevant published research. There are a small number of opinion articles by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander doctors on their careers and their journeys into medicine, there is very little correlated data though.

WR: How will your research project address this dearth of data around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors?

SM: Once the project receives ethics approval, I will be looking to survey Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors about their experience in becoming a doctor. I will then be looking for the commonalities between successful doctors that can be collated and used to assist the mentorship of students undertaking their degrees so that more students can successfully make it through and become competent and effective doctors in their chosen communities.

WR: Mentoring is something that AIDA and its members see as an important contribution to our members’ careers; how can AIDA members get involved in your project?

SM: This is going to be a fairly large piece of work and I could really do with some help. I would really like to reach out to some of AIDA’s medical student members to see if anyone is interested in helping me out as a research assistant. Once we get the project underway, I would like to interview some of AIDA’s graduate members – probably by phone or skype.

WR: Getting a research assistant or two would be a big help, but what’s in it for them?

SM: Well, the intention is to have the research published once it is complete so there will be the opportunity to present at conferences and other forums. As a research assistant you may be able to use the project to contribute to a research component of your degree. It would also be a great opportunity to add depth to your CV, which will be important when it comes time to apply for internships, residency and other training programs.

WR: That sounds like a great opportunity, how can interested student members get in touch with you?

SM: Email would be best and they can send me their expression of interest to drsjmcewan@gmail.com

WR: Thanks for your time and good luck with your research project.

SM: Thank you.

10 May 2016