Classically-trained opera singer Myora Kruger has been named the inaugural recipient of Bond University's Indigenous Medical Scholarship, introduced this year as part of the University's commitment to help close the gap on education and healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The 19-year-old plans on becoming an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist upon graduation, living out her dreams of helping singers with vocal damage and working with remote Indigenous communities to improve child health.
The prestigious scholarship will cover Myora's tuition fees through Bond University's highly-ranked Medical Program, the fastest pathway available to graduate as an intern eligible to practice medicine in Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Helen Chenery, Executive Dean of Bond University's Faculty of Health Sciences & Medicine, said Bond University was committed to growing its Indigenous medical cohort in order to see more Indigenous doctors enter the workforce.
"There are currently only approximately 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors practicing medicine and 300 Indigenous students studying medicine Australia-wide, a figure Bond University has dedicated itself to improving," said Professor Chenery.
"Just last year saw the appointment of Associate Professor Shannon Springer to oversee Bond's Indigenous health curriculum, developing clinical placement opportunities in Indigenous communities and engaging with the Gold Coast’s Indigenous communities.
"We are thrilled to have introduced the Indigenous Medical Scholarship this year, which provides a pathway for the best and brightest Indigenous students, like Myora, to study medicine at Bond University."
Myora said she had been training as a classical opera singer since the age of 11.
"I have been singing for most of my life and started studying a Bachelor of Music in Classical Voice, however I realised that, as much as I loved performing, I wanted to do something else career-wise," she said.
"I was talking to my singing teacher about technique after I had broken my nose and visited an ENT specialist, and my teacher told me about a professional singer who became an ENT and now worked with singers with vocal damage.
"I thought that sounded amazing and realised that was the career path I wanted to pursue.
"When I graduate, I also want to use my medical training to give back to the Indigenous community as much as possible. It can be hard for Indigenous people who don't want to seek medical help from doctors who aren't Indigenous, so I plan to help out in that regard.
"Specifically, it has been found that a lot of Indigenous children develop 'glue ear', so as a future ENT specialist I would love to give back by assisting with this issue down the track."
Myora, named after the Myora Mission on North Stradbroke Island where her great-grandfather was born in 1918, is a descendant of three Aboriginal tribes.
"I am part Noonuccal who are the Aboriginal people of Stradbroke Island, part Nooghie who are from Moreton Bay, and part Kombumerri, who are the traditional owners of the land on which Bond University is built," said Myora.
"I am involved with the Yugambeh Youth Choir and I am currently the vocalist on the official recording of the national anthem in the Yugambeh language, the Aboriginal language of South-East Queensland that had, until recently, all but died out.
"The recording was presented to Parliament and is still played in a number of schools across the Gold Coast, so the experience was an honour to be a part of."
Dr Shannon Springer, Discipline Lead for Indigenous Health, said Myora had proved herself a worthy candidate for the prestigious scholarship through her first-rate academic record coupled with her dedication to the Indigenous community.
"Myora is an incredibly bright young lady who is committed to her community, particularly through her work with the Yugambeh Youth Choir and work helping restore the Yugambeh language," he said.
"She has a clear goal of what she hopes to achieve throughout her medical career and we are proud to offer her a path toward achieving her dream of becoming an ENT specialist.
"While Bond University's student retention and completion rates are well above the national average, there is still a way to go to see the higher education gap close between Indigenous Australians and their non-Indigenous peers.
“As part of our commitment to this, Bond has established a dedicated Indigenous student support service called the Nyombil Centre where Myora will be assisted throughout her studies and provided with opportunities to connect with her fellow Indigenous peers."
"Myora is a role model to her peers and we look forward to watching her thrive throughout her studies and future medical career."