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Giving back to the next generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors

31 August 2020

For GP Danielle Carter, supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and GP registrars is a way to give back to her community.

Dr Carter Fellowed with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) through the JCU GP training program while working as a doctor in Townsville in 2019.

The proud Aboriginal woman is keen to see more Indigenous students follow her pathway into medicine.

“I decided a few years ago that this is how I can help. So now I'm working with the Indigenous GP Registrar Network (IGPRN) to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registrars through their training.”

Growing up in Gladstone in rural central Queensland, Dr Carter was always drawn to the idea of medicine.  That idea solidified into a genuine desire to pursue a medical career as a teenager and at 17 she packed her bags and moved north to study Medicine at James Cook University.

“Moving away at such a young age was challenging. Being away from family, my mob and my friends and starting in a new place was hard. But JCU was really supportive”

“I didn’t have any financial support which was hard. But I learnt more about bursaries and scholarships and that helps.”

After working in the hospital system for several years, Dr Carter decided to follow the pathway into General Practice as a way to balance an interesting and challenging career with a growing family.

She relished the opportunity to return to JCU to undertake her specialist training.

“It’s been great going through JCU as an undergraduate and then to do my postgraduate training through them. I understood their expectations and all the people I knew from medical school are running the GP training as well.

“They were familiar with me and I had that background with them. It felt like one big family and didn’t seem overwhelming. I like that approach,” Dr Carter said.

“When you come from an Indigenous community authority figures can sometimes be a bit intimidating, so going through GP training with people you’ve known for years makes it much easier.”

“You can talk openly to them and that was important for me going through the program with a young family.”

Throughout her training, Dr Carter was part of the Indigenous General Practice Registrar Network.

“It is a wonderful support network made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors.  They use peer support to help with training programs and learning and development all around Australia.

“Indigenous doctors don’t progress well through the exams. So a lot of the network's focus is on helping registrars prepare for exams and study effectively.”

Dr Carter said she’s enjoying her current role as a mentor with the network.  It’s all part of her focus on encouraging other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and doctors on their medical journey.

“If they have the dream to be a doctor it’s important to recognise that there is so much support to help them on their way,” Dr Carter said.

“Yes it may be outside their family’s expectations, but they’ll be joining a new mob which is rooting for them 100 percent of the way. It may be nerve-wracking and harrowing but it’s great to be able to give back to your family and your community once you become a doctor.

“My message to young Indigenous students is to have a go. There is a lot of support out there and if it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out. But you are always going to regret it if you don’t give it a go.”

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JCU Stories

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