Aspiring doctor seals pathway with perfect GPA | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Aspiring doctor seals pathway with perfect GPA

24 May 2021

An occupational therapist who took a career break to have a family has used steely precision to achieve a perfect grade point average of 7 on her return to study, to become a doctor.

Melanie Richmond, 37, of Shelly Beach, received a prestigious University Medal when she graduated from USC last month with a Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

Mrs Richmond said that receiving the medal, watched by her husband and three children aged under 11 in the audience, was a highlight of her graduation.

She is now in her first year of Griffith University’s Doctor of Medicine program at the Sunshine Coast Health Institute (SCHI), while also finishing a USC Science Honours degree.

“I never considered that I’d be bright enough for medicine, and I didn’t have the financial support required when I was younger to take on an additional degree,” said Mrs Richmond, who grew up in Boyne Island and attended Toolooa State High School in Gladstone.

“But after a short time of working with patients as an occupational therapist, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. I just had to be patient and wait for all the stars to align.”

She said the opportunity to study medicine finally came when her family relocated to the Sunshine Coast and funding was announced for the Griffith University medical program at SCHI.

“It had been a long time between degrees so I needed to do additional university study to meet the medical program entry requirements,” she said.

“I chose the USC pathway because, of all the options available, I felt the Biomedical Science degree would offer me the best preparation for my goal.”

Mrs Richmond said her journey to medicine through the USC degree was well supported.

“In addition to my wonderful family, who gave me many high fives for getting 7s and wiped tears from my face when things were tough, I found the USC teaching staff supportive and encouraging,” she said.

“It’s not easy being a mature-aged student, juggling family and study, but I was blessed to have all of their support.

“I was very lucky to have Dr Mark Holmes as Honours supervisor, developing my research skills on our project, ‘Barriers and enablers to specialty training for Australian doctors.

“Studying was a pleasure with passionate educators who had real world experience, such as Dr Anna Kuballa in medical genetics and Associate Professor Fraser Russell in biochemistry and pharmacology.

“On rare occasions my children had to attend lectures. Dr Kuballa made quite an impression on my eight-year-old daughter who sat in on a medical genetics lecture in 2019. Emelia still draws DNA regularly, knows more about it than the average adult and insisted on attending Book Week celebrations at her school, dressed as a ‘genetics doctor’ with textbook in hand.”

Mrs Richmond is now enjoying the collaborative processes and collegial style of student interactions at SCHI, a dedicated education, training and research facility co-located with the Sunshine Coast University Hospital.

“I am very different from the average student in terms of demographics, but I’ve found some students in the program who are as patient-focused as I am, which is solid common ground,” she said.

“The highlights of the medical program so far involve anything where we have been exposed to real or simulated patients. My ambition is to be the kind of genuine and caring doctor I would like for my own family, so any opportunity to interact with patients and practise those skills is a joy.”

Register for USC’s interactive online Open Day on Sunday 18 July.

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