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Growing up in a remote Mt Isa Aboriginal community, GMT supervisor Dr Marjad Page never thought he could become the man he is today, but knew he wanted to help his people.
Dr Page, who works at Gidgee Healing and Mt Isa Base Hospital, is a proud Christian, Kalkadoon, Waanyi and Ganggalidda man.
He said at a young age he didn’t understand why Aboriginal people including friends and family would go into hospital and not come out.
“Quickly a pattern came to me that unfortunately more Indigenous people didn’t come out than non-Indigenous at the time,” he said.
“I remember I couldn’t walk out with my loved ones and I wanted to do something so they could walk out with me.
“I can’t even count how many funerals I’ve been to. I’ve been a pallbearer six times. I’ve done eulogies about five times. I remember once there was a three year period when I was going to a funeral every month.”
Dr Page said he always had a passion to try and do something in the medical field.
“I suppose becoming a doctor was in my mind but never an option because it was an impossible task.
“We never knew any doctors, none of my family ever went to uni, and a lot of them didn’t finish school.
“We thought only aliens became doctors. But I guess I wanted to help in some way shape or form to try and get my people out of hospital.”
Dr Page completed grade 12 at Nudgee College in Brisbane after he showed promise as a basketball player.
“I got a scholarship to go to university in Canberra. I used to play basketball and I was semi ok so that opened a lot of doors for schooling.”
However, an injury ended Dr Page’s budding sporting career and brought him back to his passion.
“I cried to my elders and my family because I thought I was going to help my people through basketball, but then that was over before it started.
“They told me to use my brain, so I tired and now I’m here.”
Dr Page studied a degree in Human Movement Science in Rockhampton before applying for Medicine at James Cook University.
“From the beginning I wanted to be GP. I wanted to do it to come home and be the first front on the ground. I wanted to be connected to the community.”
Since working with Gidgee Healing in Mt Isa, Dr Page said he has seen an increase in Indigenous patients coming in for checkups.
“Our mums and bubs program started with five patients. Since I’ve been there we have got a good team together and have the blessing from the community. We have gone from five patients two years ago, to 45 patients now. It’s been a massive jump.
“The people coming into my room are happier because they know me and they know my family.
“The elders and key stakeholders, even young kids feel like they have more of a voice around me,” he said.
As a GMT supervisor Dr Page is able to coach registrars from a medical and cultural perspective.
“The first conversation I have is about the Aboriginal people here. I teach them a lot of things regarding not only taboos but kinship system and that aboriginally is not only a culture but is actually first and foremost a religion.
“Once you look at it as a religion you start paying more attention and are more focused.
“For example an Aboriginal person who goes walk about, that’s not because they don’t care, it’s a religious ceremony or pilgrimage they have to go on to keep their Gods happy.”
Dr Page was recently awarded the inaugural Denis Lennox medal at the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) 28th Annual Conference in Townsville, for outstanding achievement as a registrar.
He said he owed the achievement to his community.
“They did the hard work to make me the person I am today and I am grateful for their support,” he said.
“I’d also like to thank GP training organisations GMT, Tropical Medical Training and Mt Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health. They were a big part of keeping me in Mt Isa.
“It was an honour to receive an award in Denis Lennox’s name. He is the grandfather of Rural Generalism and if I, or any doctor, can be half the man he is then I think we are going to be providing great services to our community.”
JCU and GMT look forward to continuing to train doctors to meet the needs of Queensland communities.
For more details on GMT visit www.gmt.edu.au