Inaugural winner of the Bond University Chris Del Mar Medal Joan Cassimatis couldn’t be prouder to receive an accolade named for the late professor who made such a significant impact on her chosen field.
After seven years of study, Dr Cassimatis graduated as the top performing medical student of 2022, earning her the medal bearing her former professor’s name.
Professor Del Mar passed away in February, three years after he was seriously injured in a surfing accident on the Gold Coast.
Professor Del Mar launched Bond University’s Medical Program in 2005 and oversaw the graduation of the first cohort of 72 medical students. More recently he was Professor of Public Health at the University’s Institute for Evidence-Based Healthcare.
Dr Cassimatis has fond memories of Professor Del Mar from her early years as a medical student.
“Chris Del Mar was one of the most hardworking people – I was very honoured to receive this medal,” she said.
“I was lucky enough to have a couple of sessions with him in our early years of medicine. He had a strong presence from the very beginning.”
The pathway to a medical career wasn’t a straight line for Dr Cassimatis. She started out studying a double degree in Law and Biomedical Science.
But a stint working with Save the Children in Kununurra, Western Australia, convinced her that a medical degree would enable her to do the most good.
“That experience steered me more towards the science arena than the law side of things, seeing the different health outcomes and struggles there, I felt I could do more good with medicine.”
Dr Cassimatis was awarded the University’s First Nations Medical Scholarship which enabled her to follow her dream of making a difference for her community.
As a First Nations student, Dr Cassimatis said the support and care she received from the University’s Nyombil Indigenous Support Centre had made a critical difference.
“The Nyombil Centre is such a supportive and nurturing environment, particularly in those first couple of years of my studies, having access to tutors and making friends through the centre was a big help,” she said.
“And of course that then led into me getting the scholarship – everyone at the centre was amazing throughout my time at Bond and I know they have a very strong network across all the degrees.
“That was a highlight for me from my time and Bond and of course it allowed me to study at Bond through the scholarship, which I would otherwise not have been able to do.”
Dr Cassimatis said she was looking forward to a break over the holiday period before starting her first rotation as an intern at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) in January.
But she won’t be short of familiar faces – at least 15 of her classmates will be joining the team at RBWH.
“Although we’re all on different rotations I’m sure we will be able to catch up and be a little support network for each other,” she said.