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Scholarship fast-tracks Sara's dream to become a surgeon

Sara Fagan smiling in front of the Bond University fountain

As the granddaughter of Australia’s first Aboriginal bishop and the niece of an award-winning fashion designer, Sara Fagan set her bar high from an early age.

“I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon,” says the Medical Program student. “I've also got an unfinished paramedicine degree that I want to complete, but that's a future problem!”

Until recently, Ms Fagan planned to graduate as a paramedic and work shifts to put herself through a medicine degree.

She has been able to fast-track her ambition after being awarded a Margaret Douglas Indigenous Medical Scholarship to study full-time at Bond University.

Ms Fagan is from Yarrabah where her family has deep roots in the community. Her late grandfather Arthur Malcolm was born in the town near Cairns and became the first Aboriginal bishop in the Anglican Church of Australia in 1985.

“I used to help him out at church every Sunday,” Ms Fagan remembers.

“I always used to love getting the bread and sometimes, if I was good, they let me dip it in the wine!

“My grandad and I used to go fishing. We’d always get fish, get crab, and sometimes we’d get turtle and it'd be so nice.”

Ms Fagan graduated from St Monica’s College in Cairns and her interest in medicine has been shaped by her parents who worked in healthcare.

Her father Cleveland Fagan is a former CEO of Apunipima Cape York Health Council which provides treatment in remote communities on Cape York.

She hopes to follow his lead by completing some of her training or early career in the regions before moving into emergency surgery.

“I’d love to work in a rural area, like up in the Cape. It’s very cultural up there, you get to know everyone and it’s just so gorgeous,” Ms Fagan says.

“But I think later on, working in an emergency department or as a trauma surgeon would be very rewarding.”

Ms Fagan also draws inspiration from her aunt Simone Arnol, who learned traditional dyeing techniques from Ms Fagan’s grandmother to produce unique textiles that won a 2021 National Indigenous Fashion Award. The talented artist is also a finalist in the 2022 National Photographic Portrait Prize.

It has been a whirlwind few months settling in at Bond University but Ms Fagan is looking forward to resuming her hobbies such as the Israeli martial art Krav Maga.

“I felt nervous about moving to the Gold Coast because I have family and friends in Brisbane but none on the Gold Coast,” she says.

“But I've come to love it here because I've discovered the beach. The Gold Coast has the coast like Cairns but the city like Brisbane, which is a nice mix.” 

Ms Fagan’s scholarship is provided by Margaret Douglas, Co-Founder and Director of the Optical Superstore chain.

Bond University is hosting its 2022 Indigenous Gala on October 14 to raise funds to support the education of students such as Ms Fagan.

The keynote speaker will be Dr Mark Wenitong, one of the first Aboriginal doctors in Australia.

Click here for tickets to this celebration of Indigenous culture which since 2010 has raised almost $3.2 million for scholarships, grants and bursaries.

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