COVID-19 Advice for the JCU Community - Last updated: 5 May 2022, 3pm (AEST)

Written By

Janine Lucas


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

22 April 2022

Related Study Areas

James Cook University’s Geraldine Le is in London for a medical student leadership summit after shining among 7500 participants in a global clinical skills competition.

The sixth-year student earned her place in the ClinicalKey Student Global Challenge finals in July last year after four rounds of multiple-choice questions and a video round. The pandemic-delayed finale starts with two days of leadership workshops before the 15 finalists form teams to solve a medical case in a two-hour escape room.

Geraldine makes the trip in memory of her best friend Yi-Jing Zeng, a talented medical student and virtuoso violinist who died in a car accident near Sarina last month. Yi-Jing and Geraldine were inseparable, their sisterly bond strengthened over the years through living on Saints Catholic College together, sharing the same passion for music, and moving to Mackay in 2021 to complete their final two years of university together.

“So many things that I see or do every day remind me of Yi-Jing,” says Geraldine, who considered cancelling her travel plans. “Yi-Jing was my biggest fan for the trip, and she wanted me to send her photos every day. I’m only going to the UK for Yi-Jing and her family now.”

Geraldine and Yi-Jing

Patient at the centre

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.”

four medical students in front of rescue helicopter in hangar
Large group of musicians dressed in black
Left: Geraldine and JCU colleagues get a glimpse behind the scenes of retrieval medicine. Right: With Yi-Jing and their fellow college musicians.

Gratitude a gift

A science and maths-orientated student in high school, Geraldine didn’t fall in love with medicine until a six-week stint working with patients on her fourth-year placement in Mareeba.

“I loved the human body, but I was always doubting my ability and wondering was this really my passion,” she says. “Then fifth year really sparked my passion for medicine. I felt like I was actually contributing something to society, just being there with patients if they were upset or emotional. Even if I felt like I did nothing, it just made me feel better as a student.

“I got little gifts from patients who were grateful. I learned a lot from the doctors. They pushed me to work on my weaknesses but also shine in my strengths. We always say it's a lifelong learning journey, so I'm always working hard to improve.”

Baking is Geraldine’s go-to activity for relaxation and stress relief: “Baking is my big thing. I love it. I never had an oven growing up – we just rely on microwaves back home – but we learned how to cook and bake at school.”

Her advice for new medical students is to lean on each other for support. “The main thing I would say is it's a long degree and it's essential to not burn out, but I feel like everyone has experienced that at least once in this degree. It's important to keep up with the things that you enjoy doing, whether that's sport, music, baking. It's important not to be too affected by what the people around you are doing … just go at your own pace. That takes a few years to develop. Help each other out, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Watch Geraldine's winning video submission.

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