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Written By

Andrew Cramb

College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

20 September 2021

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Walbanga woman and medical student driven to improve her peoples’ health

Jessica Storrar is a young woman on a mission. Her desire to study medicine at JCU was born out of a passion to help close the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

As a Walbanga woman from the Yuin Nation on the south coast of New South Wales, Jessica is taking every opportunity she can while at university to equip herself to address the health issues affecting her people.

“I moved up from Canberra to study medicine at JCU because I am interested in rural and Indigenous health, and giving back to the community,” Jessica says. “There are big disparities in health care, and a lot of Indigenous people do not have the same access to universal health care as other people in Australia. The more I learned about the disparities, the more I wanted to help.”

Jessica Storrar during outreach education
Jessica Storrar on placement
Left: Jessica assisting in an outreach clinic. Right: At the Townsville University Hospital on placement (Images supplied by Jessica Storrar)

Last year, Jessica completed her second-year JCU rural placement in Collinsville, an hour’s drive inland from Bowen in Queensland’s Whitsunday Region. The four-week placement provided Jessica with plenty of opportunities to practice core clinical skills under the supervision of the doctor and nurses.

Jessica has developed her skills further through an external placement in Cooktown as part of her involvement in the John Flynn Placement Program (JFPP). The program provides Jessica with additional placements throughout her tertiary studies to complement and expand on her JCU experiences.

“I found Cooktown a very different experience to my other rural placements. I got more involved in Indigenous health through outreach clinics in the surrounding communities of Hope Vale and Wujal Wujal. I went out to these places once a week and got to do consults with patients, which gave me exposure to some of the health issues up there. I just really enjoyed interacting with people, getting to know them and seeing the different types of medicine,” Jessica says.

“Getting the exposure to a rural health setting is really important to me. It’s accelerated my skills and experience to help prepare me for the clinical years. Doctors have commented that students who seize these opportunities are often a bit more advanced than what they would expect of students at the same stage of their degree,” Jessica says.

Exploring on placement

Jessica at the Big Mango in Bowen

Scholarship enhances the university experience

As she comes to the end of her third year of study, Jessica is as committed as ever to becoming a doctor who makes a difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Supporting Jessica on her journey to becoming a doctor is the Go Further Indigenous Tertiary Scholarship from Arrow Energy.

“The support from Arrow Energy has been amazing. Essentially, this scholarship has enabled me to study medicine. It’s provided me the financial support to move up here away from home, to settle in and to afford textbooks and a stethoscope,” Jessica says.

“The scholarship also takes the pressure off working, so I can have social experiences through uni as well. When you combine classes, clinical skills sessions and study, it’s a 40-hour week. The scholarship means I’m not bogged down in work on top of all that.” Jessica says.

Her message to other students is to be proactive about looking for scholarship opportunities to help make the most of their university experiences and prepare for their careers.

“There are a lot of scholarship opportunities available, particularly for rural students, for women, for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I recommend jumping onto the JCU website for up-to-date information on what might be available to help you,” Jessica says.

To find out more about the scholarship opportunities through JCU, visit: www.jcu.edu.au/scholarships-@-jcu/browse-scholarships

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