Articles and Case Studies

An Aspiring Career for an Inspiring Role Model

22 Mar 2016

Stethoscope heart

Jessica Dean, an MDA National Member, has accomplished a lot at an early age. She was a former President of the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA);  Federal Councillor of the Australian Medical Association; and founder of The Nookie Project, a sexual health promotion organization.

When did you realise you wanted to become a doctor, and why?

In year 10, I completed my work experience with a Criminal QC in a very high profile gang murder trial. At that point I was pretty sure I wanted to be a criminal barrister. The attraction to medicine came quite late, but it was still a close battle between medicine and law. I was fortunate to be able to undertake the Medicine and Law degree at Monash University.

The whole constellation of medicine is a complex, challenging and ever evolving system. Not only is medicine engaging and intellectually stimulating, but patients let you into their personal lives – their hopes, dreams and fears. And doctors have the opportunity to make a really significant and positive impact on someone’s life. I think that’s really special.

Have you travelled during your medical training? What are some of the highlights?

I’m incredibly fortunate to have travelled every year since leaving school. It all started when I undertook a gap year between high school and medicine to participate in an international leadership course in Israel. Over the year I travelled through Egypt, Jordan and most of Israel, and then backpacked around Europe for three months. I’ve had some incredible experiences while travelling – paragliding and white water rafting in Nepal; scuba diving through Indonesia and Thailand; sailing in New Zealand; trekking through the Middles Eastern deserts; working as a date-picker on a kibbutz; cliff-jumping in Thailand; volunteering as an “elephant-walker” in an Elephant Conservation Centre in Laos; and surfing in Java.

I’ve visited hospitals all over the world, and have attended two General Assemblies of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations in Tunisia and Taiwan as AMSA President. Most of my highlights from the last eight years are travelling, and I’d strongly recommend taking every opportunity to explore the world we live in.


(Left) Scuba diving off the Gili Islands, Indonesia. (Right) In front of Lake Tekopo in South Island, New Zealand

What motivated your involvement with beyondblue?

Mental health has always been an issue that I feel passionate about. It’s the biggest health risk to young Australians and one that we speak the least about. I’ve watched helplessly as family and friends have battled and even lost their fight against depression and anxiety.

The 2013 beyondblue study of doctors and medical students validated what we already knew – that medical students and doctors are at a significantly increased mental health risk when compared to the general community. beyondblue is doing such important work in this field. Their Heads Up initiative is having such an impact in the workplace, and the early childhood and schools programs are so exciting. The conversation around mental health is really starting to change.

What has been your experience as a Board Director of beyondblue?

I’m thrilled to be on the Board of beyondblue. I hope to make a valuable contribution to the work that beyondblue does in promoting the mental health and wellbeing of the medical profession and the broader community.

It has been an intimidating and yet incredibly rewarding experience working with a number of my personal heroes through my role on the beyondblue Board.  Dr Mukesh Haikerwal has been Victorian and Federal AMA President, and President and Council Chair of the World Medical Association – yet, he still introduces himself first and foremost as a General Practitioner in the western suburbs. I’ve never met anyone so incredible and yet so humble. Julia Gillard has always been a feminist hero of mine. She is so eloquent, effective, and profoundly intelligent. Jeff Kennett is an inspiring leader and an even better orator. Johanna Griggs has such charisma and Michael Kidd is literally changing the world in so many ways – and I’m only through less than half the Board! It’s such an honour to sit at the same table as these people… I have to pinch myself in meetings.

Tell us about your involvement in any other special projects.

As President of AMSA in 2014, I was involved in the development and implementation of the AMSA Mental Health Campaign. It was a huge success, testament to the hard work of hundreds of volunteers across the country that took it from an idea to a nationwide movement, physically engaging over 5,000 students and with online impressions of over 90,000 people.

I’m sad that my involvement with AMSA has come to a close after three wonderful years, but it really has been a truly wonderful experience. Medicine is full of incredibly intelligent and motivated individuals who have such potential to make the world a better place. I’ve been able to work with and meet so many talented individuals throughout Australia through AMSA and the individual medical societies. I would urge anyone who thinks they might be interested to get involved in any way you can. It’s such a rewarding experience.

My work with The Nookie Project is really exciting. We’ve recently been accredited as a RACGP training organisation. In 2016 we will continue to run sexual health workshops for GPs and health professionals. We’re also looking forward to the launch of the youth outreach sexual health clinic in 2016.

What’s your favourite quote?

The Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic) s. 48(3)(b): “Risks that are not insignificant are all risks other than insignificant risks and include, but are not limited to, significant risks.”

Do you have any words of advice for new medical students?

Put your hand up! There are so many amazing and exciting opportunities out there, particularly through medical school. Make sure you not only open yourself up to them, but actively get out there and go hunting for them. In saying that, you have to be judicial with your time and priorities. It’s important to know yourself and consider what you want to achieve with each decision. Plan your day, week, month and even year according to what you want to achieve, rather than the tasks in front of you. Keeping that big picture visible is really important in making sure you say yes to the right opportunities, rather than just all the opportunities. Medical school can be tough, but don’t neglect all the things you love – like your friends, your passions and exercise! They are so important to keep you physically and mentally healthy.

What’s next for you, personally and professionally?

I’m very excited to be completing my internship at Monash Health this year. I’ll be continuing my current roles as President of The Nookie Project, Director of beyondblue and finishing off the last couple of electives in my law degree. I do have some ideas for future projects, but we’ll just have to wait and see!

Check these out:

Employment Essentials, Anaesthesia, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Intensive Care Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Ophthalmology, Pathology, Psychiatry, Radiology, Sports Medicine, Surgery, Physician, Geriatric Medicine, Cardiology, Plastic And Reconstructive Surgery, Radiation Oncology, Paediatrics, Independent Medical Assessor - IME


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