Monash graduates grow Indigenous medical workforce

Almost 400 Monash medical students graduated on Thursday December 12 at Robert Blackwood Hall, surrounded by families, friends and supporters. Among the soon-to-be doctors are three Indigenous graduates - Beau Wilson, Sam Burrell and Kyle Bennett - who will join the Victorian health workforce as medical interns in 2020.

For Beau and Sam, they are part of an important milestone as the first Indigenous medical interns at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne and following their internships, the hospital’s first Indigenous doctors. Monash medicine graduates Beau Wilson, Kyle Bennett and Sam Burrell

All three graduates recounted having the drive to make a difference from a young age.

“Growing up in a small community in western Queensland, I witnessed the effects of health inequity faced by rural and Indigenous Australians. This inspired me to help close this gap through studying to be a doctor,” Sam recounts.

Similarly, Beau always knew he wanted a career helping people. The support from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences throughout his medical degree helped get him there.

“No matter the day, time, or problem, there was always someone you could call or email to put your mind at ease and help guide you.”

For Kyle, being part of a family of health professionals helped inspired his choice of career.

“With my father a paramedic and my older sister following in his footsteps, medicine seemed the logical pathway for me, especially growing up on the stories of what they had seen and the lives they had saved.”

After completing their internships at St Vincent’s Hospital, both Sam and Beau hope to pursue specialist training pathways - in psychiatry and intensive care respectively. Kyle will complete his intern year with Western Health and aspires to complete surgical training in orthopaedics or general surgery, or specialist training in anaesthesia.

The number of Monash’s Indigenous medical students has quadrupled within 4 years, from 5 to 20. Deputy Dean of Medicine, Professor Michelle Leech, credits this growth to the work of the Faculty’s Gukwonderuk Indigenous Health Unit.

“Gukwonderuk has been so critical to rapidly connect students with support and especially to engage our Indigenous communities, as there are so many talented potential health workers of all kinds.”

Led by Professor Karen Adams, the Gukwonderuk team nurtures Indigenous applicants throughout their study journey – from the admissions process all the way through to course completion. The Unit offers accommodation scholarships, study bursaries, mentoring and leadership opportunities. A flagship initiative is the vertical peer program, where Indigenous students get together, practice their health skills and build their knowledge of Indigenous medicines.

Growing the future Indigenous healthcare workforce makes a significant impact on health outcomes in our community.

“One third of Indigenous people in Victoria report experiencing racism in healthcare, so having more Indigenous health professionals is vital to improve cultural safety and access for Indigenous people to healthcare,” explains Professor Adams.

Alongside this, ensuring all Monash graduates are culturally capable is important.

“A diverse and culturally capable medical workforce is a good thing for all communities” adds Professor Leech.

The December graduates join our growing alumni community of over 50,000 members spanning more than 90 countries, making a difference to health worldwide.

Deputy Dean of Medicine Professor Michelle Leech with three medical graduates Professor Karen Adams with three Indigenous medical graduates

Beau Wilson, Kyle Bennett and Sam Burrell with Professor Michelle Leech and Professor Karyn Adams.
Photography: Hynesite Photography.