Kathryn Sharley – a fifth year medical student at the University of Adelaide – has received the Medical Student of the Year Award 2019 for her dedication to rural health and Indigenous health.

She is the second person in her family to win the prestigious Award, with her sister, Laura, receiving the Award in 2014.

Kathryn will be undertaking a four week placement next March with Royal Darwin Hospital’s renal team, and will put the money she has received through the Award towards this.
She has spent all of 2019 in rural South Australia, with clinical placements at Whyalla, Roxby Downs and Port Augusta. Her time at Whyalla has included a placement with the Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service as well as the local hospital.

In recent years, she has undertaken placements at Mount Sheridan and Cairns through the John Flynn Placement Program Scholarship; spent a day travelling to remote communities with the Royal Flying Doctor Service; and travelled to Alice Springs with a visiting paediatric cardiologist for a specialist clinic.

She has also been heavily involved with the University of Adelaide’s rural health club, AURHA, co-ordinating the club’s ‘Kidney Health Festival’ in Yalata in 2018. Run by medical students, the event involves educating local children about healthy lifestyles and kidney health, and assisting at the local health service.

This year, as AURHA’s Indigenous Representative, she assisted the newly-elected Kidney Health Festival coordinators and organised cultural competency training sessions prior to the event.

In 2018, she travelled to the AŠĻČangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands to run a similar program through the Adelaide Medical Students’ Society (AMSS) APY Exchange. This program is run during the school holidays, which can be a particularly vulnerable time for the local Indigenous children.

Kathryn has also:

  • Been involved in the ‘Teddy Bear Hospital’ program, where she visited a rural primary school and ran programs to educate the students about common healthcare settings.
  • Volunteered with Kickstart for Kids – an SA based charity providing breakfast for disadvantaged children before school (these children commonly live in rural areas). This followed a fundraising campaign that she ran for the charity in 2014, raising over $10,000.
  • Organised an Indigenous Cultural Communications Workshop as a committee member of the Adelaide University rural and global health advocacy group, ‘Insight’, offering students the opportunity to learn from Indigenous elders and those working in Indigenous Health.
  • Organised the inaugural University of Adelaide Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Workshop in 2018 for students travelling to Yalata and the APY Lands, to further improve the cultural competency of these students prior to their travel. The event was a great success and she again co-ordinated it this year.

RDAA President, Dr John Hall, said: “With medical students like Kathryn demonstrating such a strong commitment to rural and remote Australia, the future of healthcare in the bush is bright.”

“Kathryn’s supervisors spoke very highly of her, saying she has a passion for overcoming inequalities for her patients. One said that if he had to assemble a team of health professionals for remote work and could only take one student, he would invite Kathryn without hesitation.”

“He said not only were her clinical skills up to expectations, but she showed a maturity about the bigger questions of life that can influence how a patient perceives an encounter at a clinic. He was impressed by her ability to keep things light when appropriate, but to get to the deeper layers that affect a patient’s well-being when that was necessary.”

“Kathryn’s commitment to rural health - which is so strongly demonstrated by the many placements and significant voluntary work she has already undertaken – makes her a very worthy recipient of our Award.”

Kathryn said: “I’m really honoured to receive this Award, and very grateful for the support it will provide in undertaking my placement at Royal Darwin Hospital.”

“I chose Darwin as the location in which to undertake the placement, as it is highly regarded for its successful integration of Indigenous culture and healthcare. There is a strong focus on community empowerment and recognition of the importance of culture in Indigenous healthcare in this region.”

“As Indigenous Health is an area that I would really like to work in following graduation, exposure to clinical practice here will be invaluable in developing my skills and knowledge.”

While she is yet to decide upon the exact path her medical career will take, Kathryn has a strong interest in becoming a Rural Generalist doctor with advanced skills in Indigenous Health and Women’s Health.

Outside her studies, Kathryn enjoys playing sport, particularly basketball and netball.

“I really enjoyed being a part of country sport this year and found this a great way to keep fit, have a break from study and to meet new people in the community” she said.

“On my weekends in Adelaide, I travel with my family to the Fleurieu Peninsula and enjoy being outdoors and going to the beach with friends. And in my holidays I enjoy travelling, both around Australia and overseas.”

“Next year, I hope to make the most of my weekends away, particularly to the Yorke Peninsula where I have other family members, and also travel to Europe for a placement in London.”

This summer, Kathryn is also completing some research in fertility medicine with an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Associate Professor Louise Hull, with the support of the Adelaide Summer Research Scholarship with the University of Adelaide.

A high resolution photo of Kathryn is available here:

A high resolution photo of Kathryn at last night’s gala dinner, with RDAA President Dr John Hall (far left in photo) and ACRRM President Dr Ewen McPhee (far right in photo) is available here:

Available for interview:
Kathryn Sharley
RDAA President, Dr John Hall

Media contact:
Patrick Daley on 0408 004 890