Aboriginal medical graduate 'thrilled' with return to Alice Springs as a doctor

11 January 2021

It’s taken the best part of a decade but University of Queensland medical graduate Dr Sherice Ansell is about to achieve her goal of working at Alice Springs Hospital, which serves her Arrernte and Anmatyerre homelands.

She will finally be closing the circle on a journey inspired by her father, Frank, a traditional Aboriginal healer (Ngangkari) and health worker in Alice Springs. 

UQ medical graduate Dr Sherice Ansell

This article is republished from the UQ Contact Magazine site.

Graduating from UQ in 2019, Dr Ansell (Doctor of Medicine '19) completed her final rotation in Obstetrics and Gynaecology as an intern at West Moreton Health’s Ipswich Hospital.

“My whole family is excited that I accepted an offer to return to Alice Springs as a doctor,” she said.

“My father encouraged me to do Medicine; he knew that in order to have a larger influence on positive change for our people you need to have a western education.

“I was an Aboriginal health worker employed in Alice Springs previously, but it’s the doctor who has the last say about a person’s treatment.

“You listen to whatever they say and, for a lot of Aboriginal patients, that isn’t necessarily the best thing because those decisions may be coming from someone who doesn’t have a cultural understanding.

“My father told me, ‘if you do Medicine, you will be in a better position to talk for your people’.”

Dr Ansell was the first in her family to study at university and said it wasn’t an easy transition.

“I didn’t know what university was when I went through high school. It wasn’t until I was rubbing shoulders with nurses and doctors as an Aboriginal health worker that I thought, ‘I could do that’.”

With the support of UQ’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (ATSIS) Unit, Ansell gradually adjusted to life as a student in a big city.

Sherice Ansell with her father Frank on her UQ graduation day in 2019.

“The first two years were probably the most difficult because I moved away from home,” she said.

“I was at the ATSIS unit almost every day and the support was just awesome and made so much of a difference.”

Dr Ansell is thrilled to be an inspiration for the Indigenous children she comes into contact with in her work or through the community.

“You don’t believe that you can become something if you don’t see it,” she said.

“By getting more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors into the workforce, we can continue to inspire our younger Indigenous communities.”

It was 2012 when Dr Ansell decided to pursue her passion to study Medicine and become a doctor.

“While based in a rural clinic in Alice Springs and studying to be an Aboriginal health practitioner, I worked alongside international and non-Indigenous doctors and nurses who had very little cultural understanding of Indigenous people.

“Seeing the language barriers between Indigenous patients and non-Indigenous doctors, and having to interpret medical jargon into plain English so that patients could understand, I realised that I wanted to become a doctor, not only for personal aspirations and passion but also to help my own community.

“Becoming a doctor helps me facilitate the outcomes of healthier lives for my people.”

West Moreton Health Chief Medical Officer Dr Deepak Doshi said Ipswich Hospital wished Dr Ansell the very best for her future and thanked her for helping provide cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and families.

Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, UQ’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement), said she “enjoyed watching Dr Ansell graduate and looks forward to seeing her working as a doctor and making a difference for years to come”.