Aboriginal Health Workers Appointed Clinical Lecturers
By Elizabeth Heath
In a first for the Faculty of Medicine, two Aboriginal health workers have been appointed as clinical lecturers.
Elaine Gordon and Joyce Davison from the Aboriginal Medical Service Western Sydney, based at Mt Druitt, “are, to my knowledge, the first AHWs appointed to clinical academic positions. It’s a reflection of the tremendous support they provide for the University’s teaching program particularly through clinical placements,” said Tim Usherwood, Professor of General Practice at Westmead.
He added: “This is really exciting. Joyce and Elaine have both worked hard to achieve their current position as clinicians, and this recognises the valuable contribution they also make to teaching and research in Aboriginal health.”
Almost 40 years after the first Aboriginal Medical Service was established in Redfern in 1971, there are now more than 120 Aboriginal community-controlled clinics scattered throughout Australia providing a wide variety of health care services.
In the mid-1980s, Joyce Davison was working the switch at Redfern AMS when she was co-opted into the very first AHW course.
“The CEO of Redfern AMS, Naomi Mayers, said one day after about 12 months, ‘Get off the phone, get down to the clinic because that’s where you’re going to work’,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I know nothing about clinical work’, and she said, ‘You’ll learn’ – so that’s how we learnt, hands-on. I loved it,” said Ms Davison.
From Redfern she moved on to the AMS at Mt Druitt and has been there ever since. She leads the cardiovascular risk reduction program and has published in the fields of health education and chronic disease management in Aboriginal health.
She said that although AMS clinics have made a huge difference, “there’s still a long way to go”.
Professor Usherwood, who works as a GP at the Mt Druitt AMS one day a week, agreed: “Aboriginal people have the worst health outcomes of any group in Australia. They are still dying on average 15 to 20 years earlier than non-indigenous Australians.
“So an important part of the medical curriculum of Sydney University is to ensure our students have an awareness of the health problems that Aboriginal people face. We also want them to be aware of potential solutions – and there’s no doubt that community-controlled health services are one – and to ensure that they are sensitive to cultural issues when consulting with Aboriginal patients.”
“It’s a pleasure to work with Joyce and Elaine and to acknowledge their contribution,” Professor Usherwood said.
Pictured: Joyce Davison, Frank Vincent and Elaine Gordon