Christopher Hagan, a first year Indigenous medical student at the Australian National University (ANU) Medical School, and passionate advocate for Indigenous health, has been awarded the 2018 Peter Sharp scholarship.
The scholarship to support an Indigenous student through medicine at ANU is part of an ACT Health funding package worth $353,000 over four years.
Christopher, 22, is from Koorawatha, between Cowra and Young. One of five children of his Wiradjuri father and Greek mother, he has seen the impact of health issues on his own family.
"I have opportunities here that a lot of people in my family and my community have never had and I feel so lucky and so grateful, I'm really going to use this opportunity," he said.
"My dream is to be a rural GP in a country town - hopefully back home in Cowra or Young, and be part of that community to help it grow and be healthy."
"Receiving the Peter Sharp scholarship has made life a lot easier for me, it has given me financial security. Now I don't have to juggle work and I can focus 100 per cent on my study - it's a real gift," Christopher said.
"I don't think I would have achieved this Scholarship without the support of Auntie Kerrie (Hogan, ANU Indigenous Health Student Co-ordinator) and Uncle Stewart (Sutherland, ANU Medical School Lecturer in Indigenous Health)."
"They do such an awesome job of supporting us students in the Indigenous health stream so I really want to thank them for that," he said.
The funding program started in 2014 to celebrate Canberra GP, Peter Sharp, whose work and dedication made significant contributions towards improving Indigenous health.
The scholarship provides $72,000. Another $40,000 is provided for students enrolled in the Indigenous Health Stream at the ANU Medical School to experience Indigenous communities in NSW and the Northern Territory. A further $24,000 supports Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander applicants to prepare for and undertake the medical studies entrance exam.
ACT Minister for Health and Wellbeing Meegan Fitzharris said the Program had achieved outstanding outcomes, with Scholarship recipients going on to make great contributions towards Indigenous health in the ACT region.
"Indigenous health remains one of our most challenging areas, particularly in mortality rates and chronic diseases in younger children. That's why I'm proud to announce we will provide $352,000 to continue supporting ANU medical students enrolled in the Indigenous Health Stream through the Peter Sharp Scholarship Program for another four years," Minister Fitzharris said.
"Supporting students like Christopher means our future health workforce will be better able to provide quality health care for our whole community."
Associate Dean for Rural and Indigenous Health at the ANU Medical School, Professor Amanda Barnard said after four years of Peter Sharp funding, ANU has expanded the number of Indigenous medical students and graduated several.
"It's fantastic to have graduated a number of Indigenous doctors from ANU," Professor Barnard said.
"We're now oversubscribed to our Indigenous Health Stream where medical students take on extra work and voluntary study in the area of Indigenous health. We started in 2010 with just two places and in the last two years we've exceeded our limit of 12 places.