Indigenous WA Student Wins AMA Pediatrics Scholarship

Kahlie Lockyer, an accomplished artist and medical student at the University of Western Australia, has been awarded an AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship.

The scholarship will be presented at the AMA-AIDA Taskforce on Indigenous Health meeting today on Ngunnawal land in Canberra, where health leaders will discuss strategies to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly will address the taskforce, attended by representatives from the AMA, Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Ms Lockyer said her heart is in developmental paediatrics with a focus on early intervention of health issues in young Indigenous children.

"I believe our children are our future, and if we can start with managing preventable diseases in young Indigenous children, then that can lead to them having a better education and better outcomes for their future," Ms Lockyer said.

"There is growing evidence showing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are being missed by the health system in diagnosis, whether it's a learning disability, neurodivergence, or other conditions, which consequently leads to lower education, health literacy, employment rates and higher incarceration rates.

"This is all intertwined and I believe the childhood years is where the biggest impact can be made."

The 35-year-old — belonging to the Ngarluma and Karriyarra people from the Pilbara region and the Yawuru and NyulNyul people from the Kimberley region — grew up in Port Hedland, WA. It was here the seed was planted for a promising future in medicine.

"My interest in health started in my childhood as my mother was a nurse. She would go out and teach first aid and health courses in different communities, and I would always be the kid that would tag along and help her," Ms Lockyer said.

Ms Lockyer has had a successful career as an artist, but she felt a stronger calling to medicine, especially after her second son was born with congenital complications.

"Wanting to be in health really did come from my childhood and seeing what our communities really need, and then with all the troubles I've faced with my kids and myself in the health system made me realise that we need more Indigenous doctors," she said.

Ms Lockyer highlighted the significance of the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students.

"The importance of the scholarship is more than just financial support. I felt that a significant organisation like the AMA investing in my studies on a national level has enhanced my confidence as well as reinforced that I am on the right path," she said.

AMA President Professor Steve Robson said he was moved by Ms Lockyer's story and commitment to early intervention in First Nations communities.

"The AMA has a long history of supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to become doctors, with this scholarship running now running for 30 years," Professor Robson said.

"Ms Lockyer is already making a huge difference by being a role model to young Indigenous children, and I have no doubt she will go on to achieve great things in medicine.

"If we want to address the health challenges First Nations communities are facing around Australia, we need more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors. This is a key focus of the AMA-AIDA Taskforce on Indigenous Health."

The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship is worth $11,000 per year for the remainder of a student's medical studies. Applications for 2024 are now closed and a panel of taskforce members is in the process of finalising the review process after receiving a record number of applications.

Make a tax-deductible donation to the scholarship

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