Issue 2 • 2022
© 2022 The Royal Australasian College of Physicians

The RACP Foundation launches a new Skilled Medical Scholarship for the Advancement of Indigenous Health

Fellows and Advanced Trainees can now apply for the new Skilled Medical Scholarship for the Advancement of Indigenous Health. Recipients of the $5,000 scholarship will use the funding to research topics for the betterment of Indigenous health and the local Indigenous communities.
The scholarship can be applied for via the RACP Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the College. In the last five years, almost $13 million has been granted by the RACP, made possible due to the generous donations of donors and partners. These donations make it possible to fund world-class research, tackle current healthcare challenges, support education and training of current and future physicians, and to encourage, inspire and acknowledge the outstanding contributions of RACP Fellows and trainees.
This year, the new Skilled Medical Scholarship for the Advancement of Indigenous Health was launched by the Foundation, and kindly donated by Dr David Campbell FAFPHM and his organisation Skilled Medical.
Skilled Medical specialises in placing qualified medical personnel in various locations, locally and globally, and offers community support through a dedicated social responsibility program. Since 2017, Skilled Medical has actively supported and funded various medical and community initiatives aimed at improving the quality of health and community services – particularly within regional and rural areas.
The Skilled Medical Scholarship for the Advancement of Indigenous Health aims to assist and encourage the advancement of Indigenous health within Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, and to put our Indigenous communities at the forefront of the healthcare they receive.
“We are funding two scholarships a year through the study grants, and however they are used, we would like to hear from recipients about what they achieved and contributed to the body of knowledge which improves Indigenous health,” Dr Campbell said.
Dr Campbell is a member of the College and a Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine. After being part of the College for many years, he felt passionately about giving back to the RACP, as well as helping to improve health outcomes for Indigenous communities across the College’s geographical remit.
Dr Campbell’s interest in Australasia’s Indigenous communities stems from time spent working in Dubbo in Western NSW and Tamworth in the New England Region, where he was actively involved in Indigenous health programs. This included implementing a number of public health initiatives and responding to the Human Rights Commission enquiry into living conditions of Aboriginal people in Toomelah, NSW. One of the significant areas of his work was in conducting epidemiologic field studies into the prevalence of hepatitis B in the mixed-race communities of Brewarrina and Wilcannia in NSW.
From his experience, it was clear that there needed to be a way for physicians and the Indigenous populations to work together to build both engagement and mutual points of view for the ongoing betterment of their health outcomes.
“I was involved in helping to set up Aboriginal community-controlled health services, but as a physician you always felt like the outsider. In a way, no matter what you did to try and help, there was a general concern amongst communities that we didn’t know what we were talking about. We didn’t have that local community knowledge or understanding from their points of view, so I just hope that some of the projects will look at how you engage Indigenous people and their communities in making things happen,” Dr Campbell said.
To enable this, as well as the provision of specialist public health physicians, Dr Campbell sees a need for a transition of other physicians into public health areas as being greatly advantageous in gaining these outcomes. Furthermore, he recognises the role the College can play in providing momentum for this to happen.
“The great thing about internal medicine and physicians crossing over into public health is that the College can make great impact,” Dr Campbell said. “At the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, we can target funding towards people who are already in their medical career, and those with a real interest in improving Indigenous health. They might be Indigenous doctors themselves, or might not be, but they would also have a range of knowledge and skills on board in which to investigate Aboriginal health matters and to come up with solutions.”
Dr Campbell mentioned that being a physician is often very data-driven, conservative and methodical. By calling upon an entrepreneurial spirit, physicians may have the capability to take risks and find opportunities.
“If physicians have an opportunity to be entrepreneurs, I think they could make a big impact on bringing medicine forward … there’s a wide commercial sector in medicine, but it’s not just linked to technology or medical research. There are all sorts of ways of providing input into the delivery of public health services, and there are a lot of people with an idea that [don’t] see it through to fruition,” Dr Campbell said.
Fellows and Advanced Trainees with innovative ideas or research topics are encouraged to consider applying for the scholarship, and to recognise it as a platform to launch their own research project and to make a positive difference to our Indigenous communities.
“We are really invested in this for the long term – not just to undertake social responsibility for the sake of it. I’m eager to get the project started and to see how it goes, and I hope there are enough people willing to apply and take up the grants.”
Dr Campbell concluded, “We are very pleased to be funding these Scholarships with the RACP, and through this initiative we hope to make some practical contribution to improving health outcomes for Indigenous people in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.” 
Dr Campbell also hopes that Skilled Medical’s donation will inspire other physicians to provide financial support for projects through the RACP Foundation. Find out how you can further tomorrow’s medicine on the Foundation’s webpage.
Applications for the 2022 Education Development Grants – Round 1 are now closed. For information regarding future rounds and how to apply, visit the RACP Education Development Grants webpage.