Indigenous graduate's chance pathway to medicine

14 Dec 2022

A University of Queensland graduate can partly thank school holiday boredom for setting her on a career path in medicine.

The newly conferred Dr Ella Ceolin was encouraged by a high school teacher to attend UQ’s Indigenous outreach program, InspireU, when she was in Year 11.

“It was in the school holidays which I wasn’t too keen on, but I had nothing much else to do and went on a bit of a whim,” Dr Ceolin said.

“It was a huge eye-opener and I actually came away from that deciding that I wanted to be a doctor.”

Newly conferred Dr Ella Ceolin in her graduation cap and gown in UQ's Great Court

The proud Djabuguy/Wulgurukaba woman, who also has Italian and Malaysian heritage, graduated from UQ in December as a Doctor of Medicine.

“I’d always thought I’d follow my mum, auntie and sister into teaching because that’s what I saw, and what I knew,” Dr Ceolin said.

“Before I started medicine I didn't know any Indigenous doctors, that visibility just wasn’t there for me.

“But it can make a huge difference.

“When my nephew was younger, he said ‘If you're going to be a doctor, does that mean that I could be too?’” 

Dr Ceolin has since served on the board of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, which supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and medical students.  

“It’s about advocating for more of a presence in the health workforce and contributing to equitable health outcomes,” she said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the oldest living culture, so therefore they're the oldest healers in the world.

“I think it's really cool to be able to continue that ancient practice of healing in modern medicine.”

Dr Ceolin is one of 6 Indigenous graduates from UQ’s Doctor of Medicine in 2022.

She has accepted a job offer from Queensland Health as a junior doctor in Rockhampton, starting in January.

“I spent the final two years of my medical degree at UQ’s Rural Clinical School in Rockhampton and really enjoyed it,” Dr Ceolin said.

“I particularly liked the rotations in obstetrics and gynaecology, psychiatry and orthopaedics but at the moment I’m keeping my options open.”

Dr Ceolin said she’s glad she found a pathway to study medicine.

“It's tough and takes a big toll on you mentally, but I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t love it,” she said.

“I’ve enjoyed it every step of the way.”