This July Keisha Calyun, a medical student and Information Management Officer on AHCWA’s Mappa program, travelled to Canada to attend the 10th Biennial Pacific Region Indigenous Doctors Congress in Vancouver.
The Congress convenes every two years, uniting Indigenous medical practitioners, students, and health professionals from across the Pacific region to collaborate on improving the health outcomes for Indigenous people. PRIDoC provides a space for Indigenous doctors to express themselves culturally, to gain strength from their international peers in expressing our cultures, and to learn and reaffirm what makes Indigenous doctors different.
Keisha, a Ballardong woman who this year won a Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship to study her Bachelor of Medicine at Curtin University; visited the unceded, traditional territories of the Coast Salish: the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations for the conference between the 10th and 15th July.
“It was unreal being with hundreds of Indigenous doctors and medical students,” Keisha said. “It can get hard throughout the year at university, especially being one of only a handful of Indigenous students at my university. It really reassured me that I will be able to get through it. I had many discussions with these people about what’s helped them and learned tips and tricks.
“I learnt that we share more similarities than differences with the other Indigenous communities that attended, including Aoetearoa/New Zealand, Hawai’i, Taiwan, Canada and USA. Similarities are both in our values and beliefs but also the health disparities we face. Everybody is at different stages in facing these challenges and where we are doing great and also where we can learn from the other Indigenous people,” Keisha said.
The conference aims to strengthen Indigenous doctors to lead the way in teaching the importance of health and culture in their home counties. The program included dedicated activities for students and an opportunity for Indigenous medical students to gain experience presenting at an International conference in a culturally safe environment.
“I saw real examples of how we as Indigenous people can decolonise spaces and places,” Keisha said. “I hear about this a lot but I haven’t seen really great examples a lot. This conference was one the most decolonised spaces I’ve ever been in – it didn’t feel like the typical conference but more like a gathering of family and community. I want to remember this moving forward so I can follow by example and try create the same types of spaces” Keisha said.
“The major take away from the conference was seeing how these people are Indigenous Doctors – as a whole. Not just a doctor who is Indigenous. I learnt so many ways about how they incorporate their culture and the way of their people into their role as a doctor which is something I have known I want to do but have struggled to understand how it’s possible. Medicine, especially how I am experiencing it as a student, is very mainstream and does not incorporate culture at all really. It really was invaluable for me to see that it is possible to be an Indigenous Doctor our way – which I think will achieve the most outcomes for our people.”
PRIDoC was established as a shared vision to increase the number of Indigenous doctors in the Pacific region and brings together Indigenous medical practitioners from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Hawaii, Taiwan and across the Pacific, to learn from each other, to stimulate research and to work together toward more culturally safe and efficient health services.