Joanne Kaczmarek

Choose to be a GP > Stories > Joanne Kaczmarek

A Torres Strait Islander woman from Badu Island, Joanne shared her experience as a medical student during a speech at the JCU Indigenous Student Award Night, 26 April 2019.

‘I won the placement lottery (so to speak), and I was lucky enough to spend four weeks on placement at the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service on Thursday Island (TI). Not only did I have the opportunity to gain valuable experience in a remote hospital setting, I was also able to return to the place where I grew up, to spend time with family I hadn’t seen in many years and to find out if it was realistic to have the goal of working as a doctor in the Torres Strait after graduation.

This experience invigorated me and strengthened my motivations to study medicine. I met family who worked in the health sector and learnt that my Aka (grandmother) was a nurse. I learnt about the amazing and important work done by allied health teams in the Torres Strait, and I received so much encouragement and support from family and community, who told me how important it is that I complete my studies and become a doctor. As if that wasn’t enough, my mum came to visit me on TI while I was on placement and she brought my daughter with her. It was the first time in 20 years my mum had been to the Torres Strait and it was the first time ever for my daughter. It was so special.

While on placement, I learnt that it is not only realistic to have the goal of working in the Torres Strait in the future, but that the community there truly supports my efforts and wants to see me succeed and return to the Torres Strait as a doctor.
I walked away from this experience with so much hope for the future, because while there are very serious health issues in my community, including a high prevalence of chronic disease. I know that I can make a contribution to closing the gap in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.’

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