Growing up in Japan, Dr Eva Yabe loved watching dubbed versions of American medical dramas, like Chicago Hope and ER.
In her school year books, she would always answer "doctor" to the '"what are you going to be when you grow up" question and has doggedly pursued this career ever since, recently becoming one of the most highly trained surgeons ever appointed at Wollongong Hospital.
At age 41, she's a surgical consultant in the complex head and neck specialty with more than a decade of training in Australia and overseas under her belt - and is also studying for a Masters in Biostatistics in her "spare time" which she hopes will allow her to dissect and lead research in her field.
As a young Japanese woman working in a field usually dominated by older white men, her colleagues say she is the "flag bearer for the future of surgery" and proof that Wollongong is able to attract the best talent to help patients receive world-leading treatment for complex head and neck cancers.
After years of hard work, Dr Yabe says she has gotten this far by always knowing what she wants to do, finding her job endlessly fascinating and simply being herself.
"I often forget that my background might not be typical," she said.
"But I never really felt like I needed to change myself. Everything that I have is pink, my scrub hat is Hello Kitty, my lunchbox is Hello Kitty, my [surgical glasses] are pink. Occasionally people think I'm just not old enough, or don't look to be qualified - but I don't get that often anymore."
Dr Yabe came to Australia as a homestay student when she was 15, arriving in suburban Brisbane with no English but a strong determination to become a doctor.
"As a young person, I just felt that it would give me more opportunity to study and get qualified and work in an English speaking country, so as soon as I could I told my parents I was moving to Australia," she said.
Two years later, she graduated from high school with offers to study veterinary science - which she applied to due to her love of animals, especially greyhounds - or physiotherapy, which she pursued.
After that she ended up in Wollongong, working as a physiotherapist at Port Kembla Hospital while studying at the UOW Graduate School of Medicine.
She became a doctor in 2011, and has since collected numerous other degrees and qualifications, as well as a training fellowship at a high-end microsurgery reconstruction unit at London's St George Hospital and significant volunteer work overseas.
Being appointed as a surgical consultant in Wollongong this year has meant a return to her old stomping ground at the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, as well as a chance to work with one of her mentors, colleague Dr Bruce Ashford.
He describes her as "incredibly dedicated" not just to individual patients, but for all Illawarra patients with head and neck cancers.
"A really well-trained person with the right personality equals a really powerful surgeon," he said.
"If you ask Eva about who her mentors were, she'd probably list 10 or 15 of the best head neck surgeons in the world - and someone who's been trained by many different people is able to pick out the very best elements of all those places.
"She has trained for a long time in many places under pretty hard circumstances, and we as a community get the benefit of that, we get to have someone like her to help us when we've got a big problem."
He said this was opening up the possibility of much more complex surgeries for patients with head and neck cancers being able to be done in Wollongong.
As well as being a head and neck specialist, Dr Yabe is an on-call general surgeon and does emergency facial surgery, but her elective work focuses on big cancer operations for skin or oral cancers.
She thrives on the challenging and highly technical work, which sometimes involves microsurgery and complex reconstructions where new body parts - like a jaw or palate - have to be made from the bones and muscles elsewhere in a patient's body.
"Sometimes the part of the jaw or the part of the bone has to be removed and has to be reconstructed, so we do the resection and the reconstruction so people can have good quality of life after having their cancer removed," she said.
"I find every case in quite challenging in a good way - I enjoy that I have to think through each surgery well in advance to plan things in my head."
With her early background in physiotherapy and her love for Japanese characters like Hello Kitty displayed in the operating theatre, Dr Yabe also prides herself on having an approachable bedside manner which sets patients at ease.
"There's a lot of challenging scenarios that we have to deal with on a regular basis - you have to prioritise certain things, both clinical and non clinical - but I always just keep reminding myself that if you put the patient first, everything else will fall into place," she said.
"It's not everything is like, you know, fun and rosy all the time, it's not like Grey's Anatomy, or dramatic like those shows I used to watch, ER and Chicago Hope, but it's very stimulating, I love my job and, actually, I find it really fun."
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.