Danielle Dries, a Kaurna woman from South Australia, has graduated with a Doctor of Medicine Doctor of Surgery with distinction at the ANU graduation ceremony today, now wants to close the gap on health and life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
"Honestly I was surprised when I saw I was graduating with distinction because I have been so busy working on projects outside of my studies," Dr Dries said.
"Moving around the country for my undergraduate studies and ANU Medical School placements has been an amazing experience. I got into medicine because I want to help people in rural and remote Australia and I have dreams to end up there one day," she said.
Dr Dries was appointed as the Indigenous Health Officer for the National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN) half way through her degree and has been flat out since.
"I have been able to encourage people to get involved in Indigenous communities and promote health careers to Indigenous youth, as well as promote Indigenous health awareness among my peers," she said.
Through her role with the ANU Rural Medical Society, Dr Dries was able to transform the annual ANU Close The Gap Day event into a two-day conference, attracting more than 130 multidisciplinary health students from across the country each year.
"We ended up with a two-day conference with five or six speakers on the first day and workshops for health students on the second day," Dr Dries said.
"This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me at ANU because a lot of the time when we are talking about Indigenous health, we tend to be talking to an Indigenous crowd, but 90 per cent of the people who attend this conference are non-Indigenous people.
"It gives us the opportunity to talk about the strength of Indigenous people, what we have achieved, and what we continue to achieve."
Dr Dries will complete her postgraduate internship year at The Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital, while she sits as a Director on the Board of Indigenous Allied Health Australia.
"At the moment it feels right to stay in Canberra and spend time with my family while working closely with some really important Indigenous health organisations," she said.
Dr Dries is the fourth person in her family to attend ANU, with three brothers having studied engineering at the university.
Whilst at ANU Dr Dries received the inaugural Peter Sharp Scholarship, funded by the ACT Health. The scholarship was established to continue Dr Peter Sharp's legacy in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the ACT.