Becoming an Indigenous doctor for Indigenous peoples

2 December 2020

Dr Alan van Tran and Minh Ha Tran Indigenous Health Education Bursary

It’s been ten years since UQ alumnus Dr Alan van Tran (Doctor of Medicine, ’83) and his wife, Minh Ha Tran, established a scholarship supporting Indigenous medical students at UQ – a decision forged during Dr Tran’s three decades as a GP in Inala, where he witnessed the severe health inequalities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

After arriving in Australia in the 1980s as Vietnamese refugees, Dr Tran studied at UQ to be able to practice as a doctor in Australia and opened his own clinic in Inala. Through his work, Dr Tran was confronted with the visible gap in health outcomes experienced by local Indigenous communities.

For him and Minh Ha, creating the Dr Alan Van Tran and Minh Ha Tran Indigenous Health Education Bursary to support the next generation of Indigenous medical practitioners at UQ was their way to be a part of the solution. As an endowed fund, this is a gift – and an impact – that only continues to grow, with a total of 34 scholarships awarded since establishment.

“My family has faced our own struggles in the past, but we have always managed a way through. We are humbled to now be in a place where we can support those who need assistance,” Dr Tran said.

“My work as a GP in Inala opened my eyes to the situation faced by Indigenous Australians; I believe it is all of our responsibilities to ‘Close the Gap’ and actively seek to redress inequalities and disadvantage.

“I see this bursary as our way to ensure Indigenous students have the opportunities they deserve, but which society may not have always afforded them.”

In 2020, one of these students was Ella Ceolin, a proud Aboriginal and Italian woman and UQ Doctor of Medicine student.

“No one in my family came from a medical background and, throughout high school, I’d never heard of Indigenous western medicine doctors – it was through a UQ Indigenous outreach program (InspireU) that I was put on the path towards medicine,” Ella said.

“Through this program, I learnt about the equity pathways into medicine and about what having more Indigenous doctors would mean for our people.

“As I’m sure Dr Tran would know, pursuing medicine is not an easy task; however, my pathway has been made easier because of their generosity and support.”

Ella Coelin
Ella Ceolin

For Ella, her scholarship meant she could move closer to campus for her postgraduate studies, avoiding the three-hour commute she endured from her family home during her undergraduate degree. Although being separated from her family was a difficult sacrifice, it has afforded more time for her studies and towards her dream of becoming an Indigenous doctor for Indigenous peoples.

“Throughout my life, I have witnessed so many of the inequities that exist between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous people in Australia, especially in the health field,” Ella said.

“I believe that building a strong Indigenous health workforce is key to providing more culturally appropriate and sensitive health care.

“I want to become an Indigenous doctor to make a personal contribution to closing the health gap.”

The Trans were avid supporters of Not if, When – the Campaign to Create Change, supporting not only their own bursary, but also providing a campaign gift to the Medicine Scholarship Endowment Fund. As these endowments grow, more and more students will feel the positive impact of their support.

During the campaign, students like Ella benefited from the 136 new endowed scholarships created for students in need at UQ. With your help, we’ve created more opportunities for the people who need them most.

Because of you, the good doesn’t stop.


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