Almost a quarter of a century ago, Noel Hayman made history by becoming Queensland’s first Aboriginal doctor after graduating from a medical degree in 1990. There are now hundreds of studying and practicing Indigenous medical professionals, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because Noel’s daughter is one of them.
Gemma Hayman recently finished her postgraduate studies in medicine and is now an intern at Logan Hospital in Brisbane. This makes Noel and Gemma the first Indigenous intergenerational doctors the state of Queensland has ever seen.
For Dr Hayman, this feat was unimaginable when he graduated but now that it has come to fruition, he couldn’t be more proud.
“For me as a father and having your daughter become a doctor, I’m very, very proud of course. She’s worked very hard because her first degree was in social science and she found it a bit tough going the first two years but worked very hard to get through the science. Towards the end of her course she was doing quite well,” says Noel.
Although there are currently more Indigenous doctors than ever, Noel knows that we need many more dedicated physicians like him across all fields to improve Aboriginal health, and he hopes that his daughter will work for her people just like he has, and continues to do.
“I’ve worked very hard through my life and working through community, and I hope Gemma does the same. I can see the benefits of generations of Aboriginal doctors coming through,” says Noel.
For 31-year-old Gemma, seeing all the incredible work her father did, and does, towards bettering people’s lives was crucial in sparking the flame that is now her passion for practicing medicine.
“I suppose [what got me into medicine was] Dad’s continual ‘You should try medicine. Go into forensic psychiatry, it will be a very good career and you’ll also get to do a lot more in regards to helping the community’. So I saw all the good work he was doing and thought I’d like to give it a go as well,” says Gemma.
“He really does make a difference and I found that very inspirational.”
Gemma knows that her choice to make the leap into medicine was a good one and she is hoping to specialise in forensic psychiatry, something that she’ll excel at given her past in the police force and corrective services – she also finds the field intriguing.
“I feel very proud for what I have achieved and, hopefully, we’ll lead the path for more Indigenous people to get involved in the study of medicine and health services, and work at the grass root levels to try and make a difference to our people’s health, and ultimately close the gap,” she says.
She knows that her father is proud of her achievement and, who knows, one day they may be working side-by-side at the Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Primary Health Care in Inala that Dr Hayman runs.
“I think it would be a great experience. I’ve done some rotations while I was a medical student at Inala Indigenous Health and I found it a very rewarding place to work in. I also learnt from a lot of great people that work there,” she says.
“I think he’s pretty proud. He always, since I was a little kid, hoped I’d go into medicine.”