Geraldine will graduate from JCU as a proud second-generation doctor – her radiologist father, Dr Simon Le, fled to Australia from Vietnam as a refugee when he was 13.
“My father was definitely an inspiration for me,” she says. “It took a whole year for him to escape to Australia. He didn't know English but picked it up through high school and went all the way to doing medicine at UNSW. He finished his training and moved to Hong Kong, and that's where I was born.”
An Australian citizen by descent, Geraldine moved from Hong Kong at age 18 to study at JCU after a childhood in and out of hospital wards and operating theatres for a chronic eye condition.
“I have less than 15 per cent of my left-eye vision. Because this happened when I was one or two, I don't remember what normal is, so this is my normal,” she says.
“The doctors were trying to treat a benign condition in my eye, but they treated with steroids, which is not the correct treatment. A known but rare side effect of steroids is glaucoma and cataracts, and I got both. If they ever brought med students into the hospital or the clinics, they would always be like, ‘Oh, this is the best patient for you to learn from,’ because it was like everything gone wrong in a way.
“When I was 16, I finally met a doctor who displayed patient-centred care. I'd never heard of that term, never experienced it until then. That really pushed me another step towards wanting to become a doctor in the future.
“I usually have eye appointments back home in Hong Kong every half year, but I wasn't able to do so for 18 months here because of COVID and I didn't know where to find another ophthalmologist. I finally met an ophthalmologist here last year, and it has deteriorated, so he's been working hard to try to slow it down and prolong my vision.”