Mother-daughter duo fulfilling long-held career dreams

Jeanette and Charlotte Ryan. Photo credit: Tracey Nearmy
15 February 2024

Growing up in country New South Wales, Jeanette Ryan didn’t realise that the medical profession included specialists. Her only exposure to the medical profession was the local general practitioner.

Even then, Jeanette knew that being a doctor was a role she wanted to undertake.

“My parents would have loved for me to become a doctor, but I didn’t get the marks when I graduated high school in the 1990s,” Jeanette advised.

“My desire to become a doctor has never waned. But I wasn’t aware, particularly when I first left school, that there were other pathways into medicine.”

“Instead, I became a teacher but in the back of my mind I knew it was not my calling.”

After nine years of teaching, and with the encouragement of her husband, Jeanette decided to study dietetics part-time and once qualified built her business as a dietitian while continuing to teach on the side.

After 18 years, Jeanette moved on from teaching and worked full-time in her role as a dietitian.

“It was during my time as a dietitian that I felt my patients weren’t getting what they needed from their doctors,” Jeanette said.

“This awareness rekindled my desire to move into medicine. I felt with my experience I could make a very positive difference to patient outcomes.”

Jeanette decided she’d give it one shot. She undertook the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and applied to study medicine at ANU.

“By the time you get to my age a lot of factors need to come together for things to work out,” Jeanette added.

Fortunately, the stars aligned, and she was successful in her application and is currently a second-year student in the Doctor of Medicine and Surgery program.

Serendipitously, at the exact same time that Jeanette applied to attend ANU, her daughter, Charlotte, was also applying to study medicine at ANU.

Unlike her mum, Charlotte has been able to follow a traditional pathway into medicine through her enrolment in the undergraduate ANU program Bachelor of Health Science.  She commenced her first year in the postgraduate Doctor of Medicine and Surgery program this year.

Charlotte explained, “I’ve always wanted to study medicine. I have a certificate from Little Athletics and on the back I wrote ‘Dr Charlotte’. The idea has always been ingrained.”

“When I was 7 years old, I had a scary experience in hospital. I can’t remember the doctors making me feel comforted or trying to help me understand what was going on.”

“It left a mark on me. As a result, I want to contribute to making the experience of interacting with medical professionals better for others.”

“It’s been great coming into the medical program with some of my classmates from the Bachelor of Health Science and O-week offered the opportunity to make new friends.”

Charlotte added, “The social activities have been fun, particularly the Australian Medical Association (AMA) meet and greet where I got to speak to doctors who worked in cardiology and ER – both areas of interest to me.”

As for sage advice imparted by mum, Charlotte laughed, “Mum scared me about what to expect.”

“Actually, she has been great. She’s advised me that I need to take the study seriously, but not to stress about it.”

“Attending lectures and keeping the phone in the bag to avoid distraction is really important.”

“Mum has also talked about the importance of group work. There’s a lot to learn on your own but working in groups helps to focus your study. And it allows those who have expertise in a particular area to share their knowledge.”