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Q&A: Darren Hartnett, 2016 AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship winner

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Image: Former AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, presenting the scholarship to Darren Harnett at this year’s AMA National Conference.

Darren Hartnett is the recipient of the 2016 AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship. The third year medical student, from the University of Newcastle, spoke to doctorportal about the scholarship, and what it means to be an Indigenous man studying medicine and soon to be working as a medical practitioner.

What’s your background, and what made you decide that you wanted to study medicine?

I have been a registered nurse since the early 90s. I have been working in intensive care, coronary care and emergency departments throughout that time, and found that I wanted to do more, hence the progression in to Medicine

What was your path to medicine?

Apart from Nursing, I enrolled into the pre-medicine course at the University of NSW to see initially if I had the ability to take on study. Also, at the same time, I enrolled in a refresher courses for biology and chemistry to brush up on the basics.

What area of medicine interests you the most?

I still really enjoy critical care, such as intensive care, emergency and anaesthetics, and see myself in those roles in the future if I am lucky enough to be accepted into those areas. In saying that, I also really enjoy the rural areas as well, so a combination of the two would be perfect for me in the future.

How did the AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship help you in your studies?

Enormously! While studying medicine, I have had to work to support myself. The scholarship has lightened the load in that respect, and enabled me to focus more on studying. It enabled me to travel to Broken Hill and Menindee this year to spend time in a remote area where the indigenous population is higher to see what effect distance had on specialist treatment. Some of the cultural experiences that I had I will never forget; it was very special.

What advice would you give other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are thinking of studying medicine?

Do it! Even if it’s just inquiring about attending a pre-medicine program to see what it’s like, or to actually enrol in a pre-medicine course. All it takes is a phone call or an email to get started.

What has your experience been of being an Indigenous doctor so far? Are there any unique challenges or advantages?

It has been very positive. The support I have been given from the staff at the Wollotuka Institute at the University of Newcastle has been fantastic. From tutoring to mentoring programs, there is always someone there for you if you need a hand. As for challenges, I think the biggest challenge is settling in to the first year, and finding a routine that suits you. After that, it’s great.

How do you think your perspective or your path to medicine has differed as an Indigenous man?

I tend not to look at treating people as individuals, but more as the treating of a community. I always look at how my actions could influence a community in a positive way with regard to healthcare. We are slowly ‘closing the gap’, but now I just want to get out there to do my bit to make a difference.

Applications for the 2017 AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship close January 31, 2017. Click here for more information. 

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