Bond University has made a significant commitment to closing the health care gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by launching an Indigenous Pathway into its Medical Program.
As part of this initiative, Bond University on the Gold Coast will offer a dedicated Indigenous Medical Scholarship, covering all tuition fees through the full 4 year 8 month medical program for the successful applicant.
“The Indigenous Pathway concept is about actively recruiting the best and brightest Indigenous school-leavers and post graduates to consider a career in medicine,” said Dr Shannon Springer, Discipline Lead for Indigenous Health at Bond University.
“Australia-wide, there are currently only around 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and just over 300 studying medicine.
“Ultimately, increasing these numbers will improve access to health care for Indigenous people because, as patients, they do feel more comfortable seeing medical practitioners who probably have a similar background and therefore understand the history and context surrounding Aboriginal health issues.”
Over the past three years, Bond University has invested more than $2.5million in improving tertiary education outcomes for Indigenous students through innovative outreach programs, scholarships, bursaries and a network of dedicated on-campus support.
As a result, the University’s enrolment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students has more than doubled and their degree completion rate is well above the national average.
“Bond is uniquely placed to support the national goal of improving tertiary qualification statistics for Indigenous people,” said Dr Springer.
“Its boutique campus environment and small class sizes allow all students to benefit from the mentoring provided by academics.
“For our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students we also have the Nyombil Centre here on campus which provides study support and an opportunity to connect with other Indigenous students and the wider community.
“Our Indigenous graduates have excelled, going on to establish successful careers in a wide range of disciplines, and we know we will see a similar outcome from our medical program.”
Dr Springer’s own background exemplifies how training more Indigenous doctors impacts on the whole community.
With an Aboriginal and Australian South Sea Islander heritage, he was one of the first two Indigenous doctors to graduate from James Cook University in 2005.
After completing his internship at the Gold Coast Hospital and working at the Royal Brisbane Women’s and Children’s Hospital, he returned to his hometown of Mackay to serve his community at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Centre.
During this time, he sat on various boards including the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and is an active member of various grass roots organisations dedicated to closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
He began working with Bond University on a part-time basis in 2011 to begin integrating Indigenous health into the core medical program curriculum and, in addition to his current responsibilities as Discipline Lead, he undertakes clinical work with the Gold Coast-based Kalwun Health Service and Charleville and Western Areas Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health.
“Bond has already shown real leadership by ensuring that all of their medical students have an understanding of Indigenous health issues and are trained to work effectively in the cross-cultural space,” he said.
“The next key step is developing a pathway that will facilitate the training of more Indigenous health professionals and initiatives like the Indigenous Medical Scholarship will certainly help towards that goal.
“It’s also important to remember that, as a private institution, Bond receives no government subsidies for these initiatives; they are funded by sponsorships, philanthropy and the University’s own investment so Bond has made a serious commitment in the area of Indigenous education and health.”
Applications for the Bond University Indigenous Medical Scholarship open on 14 January, 2016 and close on 4 February, 2016 and can be made via the QTAC application form available at www.qtac.edu.au. The yearly intake for Bond medical students is in May.
More information on the scholarship criteria and assessment process is available at bond.edu.au/scholarships.