AIDA spoke with Dr Declan Scott, a Wirlomin Noongar man from the ancestral country on the south coast of WA roughly between Bremer Bay and Esperance.
Declan grew up in Coolbellup in Perth and is now an Intern at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Western Australia.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and a Bachelor of Surgery last year. We asked Declan how long he has wanted to become a doctor for and how it felt when he passed his final exams.
“I only really considered medicine once I had already started at university in 2010. I was in another course and met a few other Aboriginal students who were in medicine and then once I realised it was even possible, I pursued it. It was a mixture of relief and anxiety once I finished the final exams because I realised the real work and responsibility was coming. Pride and excitement too of course.”
In 2016, Declan was also awarded the ANZCA/ASA Gilbert Troup Prize in Anaesthetics. We asked him how that made him feel.
“Very, very proud. It really reassured me that I was ‘up to it’ in regards to medicine. Medicine so often seems infinite and you feel like there is just too much depth and breadth to be comfortable and feel competent, so that was a moment where I felt like I was doing the right thing, doing enough and getting on top of things.”
Having been an AIDA member since 2011, we asked Declan how AIDA has supported him through his studies.
“I recently attended the Perth Networking and Mentoring event, which was great and offered a good chance to meet new people and catch up with old friends. AIDA provides a means to stay in touch with our community within the community of Aboriginal doctors. I also attended PRIDoC in 2014 where AIDA brought a lot of friendly faces and people I knew.
At the recent member networking event in Perth, we launched our new mentoring program, which focuses on the organic nature of relationships between professionals and academics in a culturally safe space. We asked Declan what he thinks of the new approach, and if mentoring is important to him.
“I think this is a fantastic idea. Mentoring is so, so helpful. I have been lucky enough to have an unofficial mentor in Dr Daniel Hunt who is an Aboriginal Doctor. He has been so valuable. It is a great idea and I would be very keen to be both a mentor and mentee.”
We wondered if Declan had always feel culturally safe during his studies.
“Ahhhhhh, probably not. Cultural safety is a bit of a loose term. As a light-skinned Noongar, I often feel like a bit of a landmine or something. People don’t recognise that I am Aboriginal, so they talk freely and I hear all sorts of stuff. There is certainly still a lot of prejudice or premature assumptions made about Aboriginal people and patients. Most of our colleagues mean well, and I am not trying to be diplomatic, however I truly believe that there is a long way to go.”
As Declan is now an Intern at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, we asked him if he could tell us a bit about his role and how he would describe a typical day at work.
“I am currently a surgical intern on the transplant team. It is fantastic. I am really, really enjoying my work. There is a team atmosphere and it is very busy. I definitely get to enjoy the social aspect of medicine as I work in a medical team alongside lots and lots of allied health professional. I also get to see a large number of patients from a really diverse background. Along with transplants, we also do liver/HCC resections, arteriovenous fistula formation and a portion of the general surgery, so we get a large and diverse patient population. During a typical day, I do ward rounds with the team, then normally spend the rest of the day following up on jobs and running around after pagers and liaising with other teams. The nice part of the fistula, liver resection and transplant patients, is that they are often shared care with other teams (for example nephrology or hepatology), so I get a lot of education through liaising with them. I get to interact with lots of different disciplines like radiology, anaesthetics, nephrology and more.”
We asked Declan if there are any organisations that particularly inspire him within Indigenous medicine.
“The University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies and Centre of Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health certainly do. They produce a huge number of graduates in all disciplines, particularly a large number of Aboriginal Doctors, which is fantastic. Other than that, I have worked at a few community controlled Aboriginal health services that have had fantastic community involvement, which is key. These were Derbarl Yerrigan and Ngangganawili.
“I think issues in Aboriginal health are complex, so we need similarly diverse and complex strategies to deal with those. I think any organisation focussing on Aboriginal community controlled decision making or at the very least legitimate community engagement, are essential. Also cultural rehabilitation (for want of a better word) services will help improve community health such as the many Noongar language organisations like the Wirlomin Noongar Language and Stories Project or the Noongar language centre in Bunbury.”
We then asked Declan what his dream job looks like.
“I am still unsure. I seem to change my career aspirations on a week-to-week basis, but it certainly involves our community. I know that regardless of my eventual specialty, there will be community coming through as patients, and that is why I chose medicine.”
Lastly, we wanted to know if Declan will be attending the AIDA Conference in the Hunter Valley in September
“If I can get leave I would love to come to the AIDA Conference this year also. Fingers crossed I am approved for leave. I have been put on a ‘waiting list’, which sounds ominous. If I cannot make it, I will do my best to be there in future years!”