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Doctor's reality check

Tuesday, 8th June, 2010

* AIDA board member Dr Ray Warner with students at the Wilcannia Central School. * AIDA board member Dr Ray Warner with students at the Wilcannia Central School.

Wilcannia's school students have been told they can be whatever they want when they grow up by a group of indigenous doctors who did just that.

The board of the Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association (AIDA) met in Wilcannia on Friday. Members took the chance to visit the local school and hospital.
AIDA promotes Aboriginal health and encourages indigenous people to enter the medical professions. As well as working to create more indigenous doctors, AIDA hopes to make non-indigenous doctors more aware of their patients' issues.
AIDA President, Associate Professor Peter O'Mara, said the board travelled for two meetings a year as a way of interacting with the community.
There were about 140 indigenous doctors in Australia at present, he said, and about the same amount of medical students.
"It's important to us to meet with the kids," Prof O'Mara said.
"It sounds like we want to make more doctors, and we do, but we also want to let the kids know that they can be whatever they want," he said.
"When I was a kid no-one came to my school and told me that.
"The indigenous doctors we have now, none of them just said 'I want to be a doctor'. It's not until they learn of another Aboriginal doctor that they even think it's possible.
"I saw two Aboriginal doctors be interviewed on TV and that's when I thought I could do it."
The AIDA board's Student Director Sean White was a part of the visit, and it meant even more to him. His mother was Barkindji and was born and raised in Wilcannia. He attended school there briefly, visited there a number of times and still has strong family ties.
"I caught up with some older people there, as well as the kids," he said.
"While I was there I was wondering what mum would have thought about there being so many Aboriginal doctors there at the same time. It never would have crossed her mind that it could happen."
Mr White said it was important that isolated children be told that they have not been forgotten.
"I was just like these kids and I had the opportunity to choose my career path. They can do it too," he said.
The group also visited the Wilcannia Health Service. Mr White said it was great to see the hospital, where his mother was born, from the other side.
"I've visited family there as patients. This time I got to look at the good work they're doing and the strong relationship they have with Maari Ma," he said.

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