Former TIGS student on healing path

Lisa Fernandez holding the first book she was given about the human body. Picture: ROBERT PEET
Lisa Fernandez holding the first book she was given about the human body. Picture: ROBERT PEET

Former Illawarra Grammar School captain Lisa Fernandez has always wanted to follow in her father's footsteps and become a doctor.

However, which university she would choose to hone her skills was not such a clear decision.

That changed in 2011, when a school trip to a remote Northern Territory community opened her eyes to the vast health inequalities facing indigenous and non-indigenous Australia and she set her sights on becoming a GP in a rural town.

This week, the 18-year-old received a call from Townsville's James Cook University offering a spot in the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery program - an ideal way to achieve her dream.

Although Lisa's impressive 98.75 Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank could have scored her a spot in various medical programs across the country, she was over the moon with the regional university's offer.

"The university is in northern Queensland so it has an indigenous, rural and tropical health focus - which made it my ideal option," she said.

Her passion for providing health care in indigenous Australia was sparked by her visit to Emu Point, a remote outstation near Peppimenarti, about 300 kilometres south-west of Darwin.

"I witnessed first hand the inequality in health care between rural areas and metropolitan areas, and that motivated me to ... try and assist the doctors in these communities because there is a shortage of rural doctors," she said.

"One thing that stuck with me was when I saw a group of kids being carried away, squashed in this truck and that was their way of transportation to get to the nearest medical facilities.

"Some of the kids had been injured or sick for quite some time but, due to the shortage of transport and medical facilities, this was the only way to get the kids to the closest facilities."

Lisa will move to Townsville in mid-February and is looking forward to tropical university life.

"I'm really excited - I've heard from students who went to James Cook University and all of them have said 'you'll have the time of your life' and I want to have that college experience," she said.

"It just does not feel possible that what I've always wanted is actually happening."


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