Darwin medical student and mother of three, Nikki Kastellorizios is this year’s recipient of the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship.
A second-year medical student in the Flinders University NT Medical Program, Ms Kastellorizios has a long-term goal of working as a doctor in remote communities.
“I am a registered nurse and chose to become a doctor as I feel I will have greater influence in making real change towards closing the gap that Indigenous Australians – my people – currently experience,” she said when accepting the award.
“Through my encounters accessing health care, and acting as a support person for family members, I have recognised the profound impact people’s experiences have on their health choices.”
Ms Kastellorizios told Australian Medicine that she could not thank the AMA enough for the scholarship.
“This scholarship helps a lot. It changes my life. It’s so very helpful. I’m not sure how to say how grateful I am. I really, really am,” she said.
“I have three boys – aged five, four and two. This will help me balance my time. And the money will of course make a big difference. This will help me provide care. Time is something very precious to every med student and it also very precious to every parent.
“I love Darwin. Accessing health services – helping family members to do that and helping community members to do that – is important to me.
“Medicine is something I have always known I was going to do. When it comes to specialist areas, I always say I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
“But I have interests. I really like the idea of working in critical care. And I want to eventually be working in remote areas and being the kind of doctor that I would like my family to meet.”
In presenting the award, AMA President Dr Tony Bartone described Ms Kastellorizios as a most deserving recipient of the $10,000-a-year Scholarship.
“Ms Kastellorizios has a clear determination to help improve the lives and health of Indigenous Australians,” Dr Bartone said.
“Her dedication and commitment in taking on a medical degree while bringing up three young children is commendable, as is her desire to inspire Indigenous youth to strive for higher education.
“We know that Indigenous people have a greater chance of improved health outcomes when they are treated by Indigenous doctors and health professionals. They are more likely to make and keep appointments when they are confident that they will be treated by someone who understands their culture, their language, and their unique circumstances.
“Ms Kastellorizios will be exactly that kind of doctor.”
The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship was established in 1994 with a contribution from the Commonwealth Government. It provides $10,000 each year for the remainder of the recipient’s medical studies.
The BB & A Miller Fund, a sub-fund of the Australian Communities Foundation, funded the 2019 Scholarship.