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Written By

Andrew Cramb


Publish Date

22 June 2021

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For Dr Faith Chitongo, medicine goes beyond a career or even a passion. Her upbringing in the rural north-east of Zimbabwe exposed her to the deadly consequences of inadequate access to health care services. Inspired to improve regional health, she completed a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery at JCU. After graduating in 2020, Dr Chitongo is now right where she wants to be, putting her new skills to use in regional and rural hospitals.

Witnessing the impact of avoidable illness

I grew up in the rural district of Wedza in Mashonaland East, Zimbabwe. Health care services were limited in this remote area and deadly diseases were rife. From a young age, I witnessed the premature deaths of relatives and friends from otherwise manageable tropical diseases such as cholera and malaria, and medical conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and HIV/AIDS.

Faith Chitongo with Malcolm Turnbull
Faith Chitongo at Mackay Hospital
Faith Chitongo meeting Malcolm Turnbull (Left) and Faith at the Mackay Base Hospital (Right)

Pursuing a career that makes a difference

Education was emphasised as highly important in my family. It was through my father’s drive to further his education here in Australia that I had the opportunity to come to Australia at the age of 11. I knew I would go to university but was uncertain what to do. In Year 11, I was inspired by a family friend who was a medical doctor in regional Victoria. He spoke of the limited access to healthcare in rural areas and the need for more medical doctors in the area to address the gap between rural and urban health. His stories on the outcomes of patients were fascinating and stirring. I aspire to be like him and make a positive impact on people living in rural and remote communities.

A shared commitment to rural and remote health

I wanted to study at a university that shared the same goal as me. With a strong focus on rural and remote health services, JCU’s College of Medicine and Dentistry was the perfect choice. JCU has provided me with many opportunities to explore various aspects of medicine through clinical placements in Ayr, Townsville, Mater Private, Mount Isa, Boulia, Mackay and Atherton hospitals. It was a chance to explore different specialties, network with other health professionals, improve my self-confidence and grow my level of responsibility. My most memorable clinical placement was my fourth-year rural placement in Mount Isa and Boulia. It was there I saw the social and emotional challenges and burden of disease facing rural folk.

Atherton Tablelands Sunset

Equipped with the skills to hit the ground running

My final year of medical school was the best for both my personal and professional growth. Not worrying about exams reduced my stress and allowed me to focus more on my clinical involvement and development. I spent the first 20 weeks of my final year in Atherton Tablelands and the rest at the Mackay Base Hospital. At Atherton Hospital, I got the opportunity to improve my confidence in consulting patients, clinical reasoning and performing procedural skills. At Mackay Base Hospital, I completed emergency medicine, anaesthetics, respiratory medicine and mental health. I gained valuable skills that I will use as an intern and throughout my career. Overall, JCU has equipped me with the foundations to start my new career as a doctor. I now aspire to further my knowledge and skills and be the best doctor I can be for my patients.

A lifestyle of making memories

I was never bored outside the hospital. On my Atherton placement I spent my weekends exploring the beautiful Tablelands, from waterfalls to tea farms to fresh food markets in nearby towns. It was so much fun that my friend and I recorded a dance at some of the popular destinations at the tablelands (check out the video!).

Straight to work where I am needed

I am completing my internship with the Mater Private Hospital Townsville. As a Mater intern, I get the opportunity to work in private, public (Townsville University Hospital) and rural (Mount Isa) hospitals. I am always looking for ways to develop new skills and experience new environments. I am grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to providing my services to the Townsville and Mount Isa communities.

To those commencing the medical profession, the journey will pose its challenges and trials but with good study-life balance, perseverance and resilience, it will all be worth it in the end!

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