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Written By

Nicolette Ward

College

College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences

Publish Date

20 May 2022

A broad skillset for the bigger picture

JCU Medicine graduate, Dr Sophie Manoy, was looking to take the next step in pursuing her personal career aspiration of promoting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. To do so, she would need an extra boost, a qualification that could take her where she wanted to go. For Sophie, that stepping stone was JCU’s Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

As one of only two Master’s degrees of its kind offered globally, JCU’s Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine enables health professionals from a variety of health backgrounds to gain the necessary skills to tackle public health issues relevant to tropical Australia, surrounding nations and developing countries.

Completing this degree meant that Sophie could take that next step she was aiming for — becoming a Public Health Registrar for the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC). During this time Sophie was based in Brisbane, splitting her time between QAIHC and the Queensland Children’s Hospital where she continued her medical training as a paediatrics registrar.

“I've always been interested in the bigger picture of population health and wanted to make a difference on a broader scale, in addition to the individual patient. Doing the Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine was a good way to build on the experiences in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medicine that I had been exposed to throughout my undergraduate medical degree at JCU,” said Sophie.

“A lot of my work as the Public Health Registrar at QAIHC involved making policy recommendations to state and federal governments in relation to the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Together with the QAIHC team, we would put forward responses to government consultations in collaboration with the Queensland network of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services.”

J.C.U. Alumni Sophie Manoy.
Sophie Manoy with her work colleagues.
Left: JCU Graduate, Sophie Manoy. Right: Sophie with her QAIHC team. (Supplied by Sophie Manoy.)

Clinical oversight and research

With her educational experience a valuable combination of medicine, public health and management, Sophie was uniquely equipped to use her role as registrar to benefit many different areas within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services.

“Being a medical practitioner, I also provided clinical oversight to health promotion resources and educational material that QAIHC developed for its staff and for health workers within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services in Queensland.

“Another part of my role was to liaise with researchers and clinicians to better inform Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice and policy. One of the projects that I am involved with is a research study on rheumatic heart disease in Queensland. Rheumatic heart disease, which develops after acute rheumatic fever, is a preventable health problem that disproportionally affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

“In fact, rates of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in Northern Australia are among the highest reported in the world and these diseases can be prevented by addressing the social determinants of health such as healthy home environments and overcrowded living conditions.”

Liaising with researchers and clinicians better informs health practice and policy.

Keeping cultural considerations front of mind

Sophie has now returned full time to complete her paediatrics registrar training at Cairns Base Hospital and while no longer able to undertake the Public Health Registrar role, she says that the knowledge and experience she gained while working at QAIHC continues to inform her clinical work.

“I did a few student placements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services when I was a medical student at JCU, but it wasn’t until I was working at QAIHC that I fully understood the incredible depth and diversity of the grassroots work that they do across Queensland for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Services are more than just a standard GP practice; they are providing a holistic clinical service and tying in culture, connection to land and the importance of family and community."

JCU Alumni Dr Sophie Manoy

"Now that I’m back working within a hospital environment, especially here in Cairns where we see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients from across Cape York and Thursday Island, I am reminded just how important it is to keep cultural considerations front of mind.”

Looking towards the future, Sophie says her ultimate goal is to combine her expertise in paediatrics with a public health role specifically focused on the prevention of disease in childhood, and to continue working within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Sector.

For anyone considering a career in public health, Sophie’s advice is to check out the core subjects and wide range of electives that JCU offers in its Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and to just make a start.

“I started the Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in my final year of med school and just did one subject per semester as a starting point. And then I kept studying part-time through my junior doctor years.

“You can do a wide range of subjects but keeping in mind that there are certain core requirements for formal public health training such as health promotion, health management, environmental health and communicable diseases.  For my electives, I chose anything relevant to paediatrics plus an aeromedical retrievals elective for a bit of extra interest.

“The lecturers and other students are from a diverse range of backgrounds and so you gain a lot of insight about the sorts of things you can do in a career in public health and the many professional networks that exist to support this. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the JCU Master’s program and I'd love to do it all over again!”

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