An inspiring third year Aboriginal medical student from Queensland — who is studying medicine at the University of Western Australia and has this year been based in Broome — has been awarded the MDA National and Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) Rural Health Bursary for 2017.

Kelly Langford was announced as the Bursary recipient at the awards dinner for the Rural Medicine Australia 2017 conference, held in Melbourne on Friday night.

The Bursary has been provided for a third year as part of our ongoing partnership with RDAA. The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) is also actively involved in the initiative.

The Bursary provides up to $7,000 (plus GST) annually to an Indigenous medical student to attend the Rural Medicine Australia conference and to support a research project or clinical placement that will benefit Indigenous health or rural health.
Outgoing RDAA President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said: "We are delighted to provide this important Bursary to Kelly, who has already achieved so much for rural health and Indigenous health, and will be a great future doctor.
“Kelly is a proud Badjala woman from Fraser Island, Queensland, and a Darraba woman from Starke on the Cape York Peninsula. She will use the Bursary to undertake a medical placement in Cooktown which is close to Starke, her grandfather’s country. The placement will help her to learn more about the causes of inequitable health outcomes for Indigenous communities and possible solutions.
“During her time as a medical student, Kelly has been the voluntary Indigenous community coordinator for the WA Rural Health Club, SPINRPHEX (Students and Practitioners Interested in Rural Practice Health Education). Through this role, she has helped educate her medical colleagues in the important areas of culturally safe work practices and working in Indigenous communities.
“She has also been a strong advocate for rural, remote and Indigenous health as Indigenous Health Officer for the National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN).
“Recently, she presented on behalf of the NRHSN at the World Rural Health Conference on the topic of Indigenous Health for the Medical Curriculum. And earlier this year, she was awarded a LIMElight Award for her involvement in Indigenous medical education.
“While in Broome, Kelly has also participated in the Follow the Dream Program — providing tutoring to Indigenous secondary school students at Broome Senior High School.
“Kelly’s medical supervisors and mentors say she is a conscientious, dedicated and exceptional medical student with a keen interest in Indigenous and rural and remote healthcare, who will develop into a fine medical practitioner and advocate for rural healthcare.
“Upon completion of her medical degree, Kelly wishes to train as a Rural Generalist doctor in her home state of Queensland. It is clear that she will be a strong asset to any rural community in which she works.
"We warmly congratulate Kelly on being our Bursary recipient this year, and thank MDA National most sincerely for again supporting this important initiative."
Kelly Langford said: "Whilst growing up in Far North Queensland, I witnessed first-hand the health inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. As an Aboriginal person, this distressed me greatly. I realised early on that a career as a doctor would allow me the perfect opportunity to help improve the health of Indigenous people and address this inequality. I have worked hard ever since to achieve this and improve health outcomes for my people.
“This year I have had the opportunity to do my third year of medicine in Broome. This has re-ignited my passion for rural and remote healthcare and given me some amazing opportunities.
“For example, an Aboriginal woman I met during her antenatal appointment kindly allowed me to be involved in her baby’s delivery at Broome Hospital. To help deliver a healthy Aboriginal baby was truly special and an experience I’ll remember forever.
“My year in Broome has also helped me develop an understanding of the complexity of Aboriginal healthcare, and the cultural and economic factors impacting on health outcomes for Aboriginal Australians.
“Poor access to healthcare and, in many cases, poor housing conditions, financial burden, unemployment and family circumstances result in poor health outcomes for Aboriginal Australians living in rural communities.
“During a recent remote clinic trip, I visited three remote WA communities. The appreciation these Aboriginal communities have for the doctors who visit is humbling. I now have a better appreciation of the meaning and importance of access to healthcare, having been to these communities where doctors visit only twice per week.
“Receiving this Bursary will allow me to provide and advocate for culturally appropriate healthcare and allow me to connect and integrate all of my study, clinical work and advocacy back to my people on the Cape York Peninsula. Ultimately I’d like to see significant improvements in the discrepancies of health for rural and remote people, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.
“I am very grateful to MDA National for funding this important initiative.”
MDA National President, Dr Rod Moore, said the Bursary stems from the relationship between MDA National and RDAA.
“Our two organisations both understand the challenges that impact today’s rural and remote doctors” he said.
“Rural doctors often experience different issues from their counterparts, and this means that support and services should be tailored to best serve them.
“This Bursary aims to support and nurture a specific part of rural medicine — Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors. Currently, this is a small group but if we can encourage the growth of this group, it will be for the benefit of the wider community.”