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Finding family and forging a new frontier | Warda’s story

Bond alumni often refer to the University community as their second family, and for recent Bond University Medical Program graduate Warda Nazah Ahmed, advice from a trusted mentor actually changed the course of her life.

Warda grew up in Khaje Dewan, a suburb of Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka.  While Warda’s parents and brother have always been incredibly supportive of her pursuing higher education, she is also acutely aware of the reality for many other young women in Bangladesh.

“Several members of my extended family discouraged me from studying medicine. Their mindset was that by my early 20s I should get married and have children like every other girl,” Warda said. “I am very fortunate that my parents are open minded and wanted me to pursue my dreams.”

And so, she did. Warda moved to Australia, and after completing a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education, she secured an internship at Austin Hospital in Melbourne where an adviser recommended Bond’s Medical Program as a next step.

Thus began the experience of a lifetime – Warda packed up her life and moved to the Gold Coast, being admitted to the Medical Program through an undergraduate degree entry pathway, and dove straight into life as a Bondy. Although the adjustment was tough at first, staff within the Bond Medical Program quickly became Warda’s on-the-ground support system.

“When I came to Bond, I had no family and no support network around me. My teachers became like my family - they supported me a lot, they listened, they encouraged me, taught me skills which will benefit me in the long run. They were my go-to people whenever I faced any uncomfortable or unknown situation,” she said.

“They not only helped students with the course content, but they took care of our overall wellbeing.”

As she settled into her first year of the Medical Program, Warda was exposed to all of the things that both life at Bond and on the Gold Coast have to offer. From the gorgeous view of the lake from her new apartment to trips to cafes, markets and, of course, the beach, it wasn’t difficult for Warda to find ways to enjoy herself outside of her busy medical student schedule. She got stuck into on-campus life and became the Female Vice President of Bond’s Muslim Student Association in her final year of medicine.

Warda began clinical placements in her fourth year of study and calls these years an “absolute highlight” of the Bond Medical Program. “The connections I formed with the patients and supervisors really built my confidence. Their belief in me made me certain this is the work I want to do,” Warda said.

More confident of her path than ever before, Warda felt her dreams were in close reach, until pressures from back home in Bangladesh threatened her resolve to pursue the future career she’d worked so hard for.  

“I was being pressured to get married and wanted to take a gap year from medicine,” she said. “One of my teachers, who is Muslim like me, understood my cultural situation and urged me to keep going in case I did not return to finish my degree.”

Conflicting opinions from her two ‘families’ - in Bangladesh and here at Bond - made Warda’s decision a challenging one, but eventually, she chose to continue with her degree.  

“My teacher’s support and advice were invaluable, and today, here I am done with my degree on time,” she said.

The last few years of Warda’s degree saw some brilliant achievements. She participated in the Central Queensland Grow Rural program, run by Health Workforce Queensland, where she participated in skills sessions to learn about rural practice and communities to understand rural primary care.

“It was a total immersion experience and allowed me to see a different side of Australia, as well as gain incredible hands-on experience doing community health checks and procedures like suturing.”

Warda also received accolades at the Bond MD Conference in 2020 and continued to immerse herself in on-campus activities including mentoring and student ambassadorship. Now, she’s taken the next step in her career and headed to Sydney for a graduate role at Blacktown Hospital, where she joins a handful of other Bond University medical alumni. Eventually, she’d like to make a difference back home in Bangladesh, although she’s also trying to convince her family to move to Australia in the meantime.

It also seems that her success has had a profound effect on her extended family and community back in Bangladesh.

“There are no doctors in my immediate family, and I do not think there has ever been a girl from my area that has done a medical degree abroad. Now that I have achieved it, my entire community from Khaje Dewan is so proud of me. When I passed my exams, the news had spread so far within the entire community that my phone rang for days,” Warda said.

“This course has given me incredible opportunities, experience, exposure and knowledge, and taught me important skills that have equipped me well for my future endeavours.”

Although Warda is saying goodbye to the Gold Coast for now, she won’t forget Bond University or the Medical Program any time soon.

“Bond is the university that helped make my dreams come true, so it will always have a special place in my heart.”

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