Redfern local Dr Angela Wood, and Brisbane local Dr John Wood, are both recipients of a Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) Indigenous Health Scholarship, valued at up to $10,000 for each year of study. The scholarship is designed to remove financial barriers for Indigenous medical students wanting to complete further study and become a physician.
Thirty-two year old Angela completed her medical degree at Western Sydney University and is now working as a basic trainee physician at the Westmead Hospital Network. Her mother identifies as a Gumbaynggirr person. She is in
her fourth year of Basic Training with the RACP.
Angela said that the scholarship has meant that she can concentrate on studying and building her professional career without the added stress of applications and deadlines. ‘Few people understand or have the cultural competency to care holistically for an Indigenous person. Very few of my non-Indigenous colleagues are as dedicated to closing the gap as I am,’ she said.
Angela hopes to become a neurologist and focus on stroke medicine, preventative rather than cure. ‘I would prefer to work in small remote communities across Australia,’ she said.
John completed his medical degree at the University of Queensland and is now working as a registrar at Redcliffe Hospital in Brisbane. His grandmother was a descendant of the Nara Jira Para tribe, part of the Wuthathi People of Northern Cape York. He is in his final year of Advanced Training with the RACP to become a rheumatologist and says that he still has a strong connection with his relatives in Northern Queensland and the Torres Straits. John is passionate about Indigenous health research, previously looking into the prevalence of gout among Torres Strait Islander communities and autoimmune myopathies in Indigenous Australians caused by cholesterol medications.
‘A lot of people shy away from researching Indigenous health issues because it’s so tough. You have to spend a lot of time in remote locations and most people want to stay in the big cities, but I don’t mind travelling,’ he said. ‘I’m interested in many aspects of rheumatology but one of my main areas of interest is lupus. This is particularly important in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders where the disease is more prevalent and often has more serious consequences such as renal disease,’ said John.
RACP President Laureate Professor Nicholas Talley said that the RACP recognises the important role indigenous health professionals play in closing the gap. ‘Indigenous physicians are grossly underrepresented in the medical community,’ said Professor Talley. ‘The RACP is committed to actively supporting the continuing training and education of Indigenous medical students in Australia and New Zealand to grow and support this vital workforce,’ he said.
In 2015 the RACP gave out over $2 million in scholarships, grants and prizes to support the education of future physicians and the research of current physicians in Australia and New Zealand.