July 21, 2023
UOW scholarships open to aspiring Indigenous doctors
Improved pathways for medical students to boost health outcomes for community
For Zahli Howard, receiving the Dr Krishna and S Reddy Indigenous Medical Scholarship for her studies was the greatest act of generosity she had ever experienced.
The first-year student and proud Wiradjuri woman, who is undertaking a Doctor of Medicine at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Graduate School of Medicine, said the scholarship was instrumental in allowing her to take on such an in-depth and intensive degree without financial stress.
“I am in awe and deep appreciation of this scholarship,” said Zahli, the first in her family to attend university, who graduated from UOW with a Bachelor of Medical and Health Sciences in 2019.
“The selflessness and generosity I have been shown has reignited a fire in my belly and a drive to succeed. ‘Thank you’ doesn’t do justice for the gratitude I am experiencing. Receiving this scholarship has been a life altering event for me and taken weights off my shoulders that were beginning to take a real toll on me.”
Thousands of new doctors graduate every year from medical schools around the country, including UOW’s Graduate School of Medicine. Yet, for every new cohort, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students comprise only a fraction, at approximately 2.7 per cent of enrolments, which is below the nation’s population percentage.
While the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors, and medical students, is on the rise, there is still a long way to go.
The Dr Krishna and S Reddy Indigenous Medical Scholarship and the Graduate School of Medicine Indigenous Scholarship are two programs from UOW that are helping to increase the numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders doctors by providing financial support to study medicine.
The aim is to provide dedicated pathways that will enable more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to achieve their dreams of becoming doctors and helping to close the gap for health outcomes.
The Dr Krish and S Reddy Indigenous Medical Scholarship was created by donors Dr Venkata Krishna Bommareddy, known as Dr Krishna, and his wife Shashi. A retired surgeon who has worked in the Illawarra for more than four decades, Dr Krishna decided to create the scholarship to attract and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders students in the medical fields.
Now open for applicants for 2024, the Dr Krishna and S Reddy Indigenous Medical Scholarship is valued at $50,000 per year, over four years, for one successful applicant. The Graduate School of Medicine Indigenous Scholarship is valued at $2000 per year for 10 successful applicants.
In his 45 years as a practitioner, Dr Krishna said he had not come into contact with any Aboriginal doctors, an issue that contributes to inequitable health care and poorer health outcomes for the Indigenous population.
“My primary objective is to attract more Indigenous doctors with the hope in the longer term they will work as medical doctors in Aboriginal communities,” Dr Krishna said.
Associate Professor Maria Mackay, Academic Leader Indigenous Health in the Graduate School of Medicine at UOW, said the Dr Krishna and S Reddy Indigenous Medical Scholarship was an opportunity to help future Indigenous doctors to achieve their goals without additional financial stress.
“The Graduate School of Medicine is committed to educating Indigenous doctors to work in rural communities with our mob. To help the dream of becoming a doctor for Indigenous medical students to become a reality, these scholarships aim to provide the funds and enable you to focus on your studies,” Associate Professor Mackay said.
“Many Indigenous people do not feel becoming a doctor is possible. The opportunity to receive a scholarship to support them in their studies can make all the difference to becoming a doctor and making a difference for our mob.”
UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research and Sustainable Futures) Professor David Currow encouraged all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who were pursuing a dream of becoming a doctor to apply.
“There are myriad benefits to increasing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors, for the health care system and for the community. We want to inspire the next generation of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors to chase their dreams,” Professor Currow said.
“Scholarships change lives, for both the recipients and for the communities that benefit from the skills and knowledge gained. I am proud that the Graduate School of Medicine is offering these incredible scholarships that will make a difference to our students’ lives and their ability to focus on their studies.”
For her part, Zahli said she would not have been able to undertake a postgraduate degree in medicine if it were not for the generous support of the Dr Krishna and S Reddy Indigenous Medical Scholarship. It has inspired her to one day pay it forward and help other students in her position.
“When I found out I had been awarded this scholarship I was with my mum and we both just sat and cried happy tears. It is the greatest act of generosity I have ever, and undoubtedly will ever, be on the receiving end of. Dr Krishna and his wife have put a sparkle in my eye and inspired me to continue this path of helping others, in the true nature of medicine. Incredible people like this are few and far between but acts like this change the world.”
For more information, visit https://www.uow.edu.au/science-medicine-health/schools-entities/gsm/admission-information/indigenous-applicants/ or contact email@example.com.