In late 2023, three First Nations recipients of a scholarship from the Aspen Medical Foundation graduated with health degrees from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
Congratulations to Lexi Mitchell and Tiarnah Checker who graduated with nursing degrees, whilst Tahni Derbin graduated with a degree in medicine.
We asked Tahni, a proud Dunghutti woman, what motivated her to pursue a career in healthcare. She said, "My motivation is deeply rooted in personal experiences, particularly the challenges faced by my family members within the healthcare system. I observed a notable deficiency in culturally sensitive care, which initially steered my focus towards general medical nursing.
"However, my interest shifted towards mental health, especially for my Indigenous community, upon learning about the alarming statistics of child suicides among Indigenous populations. Pursuing a Master's in Mental Health Nursing, I aimed to enhance my understanding and skills to provide optimal care to my patients and community. This ambition eventually led me to medical school, where I have recently completed my studies, preparing to commence my career as a medical doctor."
Proud Awabakal woman Lexi spoke about the challenges she faced as an Indigenous woman, saying, "Throughout my education, I believe the challenges I faced was being outside of my comfort zone very often.
"I moved to the Gold Coast when I was 17 having only ever lived in small rural towns as well as having never been on the Gold Coast before, so this was a challenge for me and something that I tried my best to manage and cope with during my time studying. I was able to find support with Griffith University’s First People's Support Unit, and they truly changed my university experience for the better."
Tiarnah, who is a proud Yuggera and Turrbal woman says having more First Nations healthcare professionals can help with closing the gap. She said, "I think it will be a step in the right direction. I think we need to support people to understand that they can make a difference and that even if you don't have a family that has higher education, that you can still achieve it to break the cycle."
We're looking forward to seeing how these inspiring women make an impact on healthcare in the years ahead.
To date, the Aspen Medical Foundation has committed more than $500,000 to First Nations students studying a health-related degree.