Dr Waia is hoping the newly established Indigenous Interns Pathway increases the number of Indigenous doctors in communities, in turn giving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to look up to and strive to be.
“I've learned a lot and grown a lot as an Indigenous doctor,” she says. “As the young ones come through, it's important to be able to understand what they're going through, where they're coming from, point them in the right direction or shine a light on the path of least resistance.
“I've definitely done things the hard way earlier in my career. If I had an Indigenous doctor who was either keen on what I was keen on or even just there to have a chat, I think it would have been a lot easier, especially in my junior days when I was just going with the flow and trying to figure things out on my own, which is pretty tricky.
“Having Indigenous doctors around, especially ones who are more senior, is quite nice because you've got someone to bounce ideas off if you do have issues and you don't feel comfortable talking to other doctors about it.”
Indigenous Pathways Coordinator Amy King says THHS looks after a sizeable proportion of the state's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
“Within our region alone, we account for 8 per cent of the total Indigenous population of Queensland, and yet only 1 per cent of our doctors identify as Indigenous,” Ms King says. “A big motivator for me when building this pathway was how can we adequately look after our Indigenous population if our own health service isn’t representative of it?
“My biggest hope for what we can achieve with this pathway is to see our junior doctors supported through their formative years, to encourage and embrace them to follow their dreams and reach those goals while providing them with amazing support along the way.
“Given how few Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors we have, the struggle to find someone who understands what they are going through on both a professional but also cultural level is very real. With this pathway we are helping our doctors build those networks and find that cultural support and collegiality with other Indigenous doctors in our region.
“I hope that with the support networks we are building, and continually improving the cultural competency of our health service, we can encourage more Indigenous doctors to join us.”