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Healing runs in the family

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sashing Ceremony 2019

Medical student Sherise Ansell is following in her father’s footsteps, as she prepares to graduate as a doctor from The University of Queensland.

Ms Ansell’s father is a Ngangkari in Alice Springs, a traditional Aboriginal healer, as well as an Aboriginal health worker.

She said he encouraged her to take the less traditional path.

“He knew in order to make changes for our people that you had to have a western education,” Ms Ansell said.

“I was an Aboriginal health worker working with medical staff, but it’s the doctor that makes the changes.

“You listen to whatever they say, and for a lot of Aboriginal patients that isn’t necessarily the best thing because those decisions are coming from a place outside.

“My father told me if you do medicine, you will be in a better position to talk for your people.”

Ms Ansell was the first of her family to study at university, but said it wasn’t an easy transition.

“I didn’t know what university was when I went through high school.

“It wasn’t until I was rubbing shoulders with nurses and doctors as an Aboriginal health worker that I thought, I could do that.”

She said she was grateful for the support of UQ’s ATSIS unit throughout her studies, as she found it difficult at first to live in a big city.

“The first two years were probably the most difficult because I moved away from home,” she said.

“I was at the ATSIS unit almost every day and the support was just awesome and made so much of a difference.”

While studying at UQ, Ms Ansell participated in the PNG Health Project, a charity set up by fellow student and friend, Eve Golma.

“It was just the best experience and I saw so many similarities between Indigenous culture and PNG culture.”

She wants eventually to return home to practice but for the time being, is staying put.

“I was attracted to the Rural Generalist program, which is Queensland-based and makes you a Rural Generalist with an advanced skill in some other area.

“For now, I’ve decided to go to Ipswich because it’s a small hospital, and I just didn’t feel like it was the right time to come home just yet.

“My goal is to come back to Alice Springs or work outside Alice Springs.”

And she’s thrilled to be an inspiration for the Indigenous children she comes into contact with.

“You don’t believe that you can become something if you don’t see it,” she said.

“So I think the more Aboriginal doctors we get out there and our families see, the more they know that they can do it too.”

Source: UQ

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