New Colombo Scholarship awarded to Griffith Medicine student

A passion for Japanese health policy and how it can be used to develop under-resourced areas of theAustralian healthcare system in rural and remote regions is the focus for Griffith medical student Grace Yeung, recipient of one of this year’s prestigious New Colombo Plan scholarships.

Launched in 2013, The New Colombo Plan is an Australian Government initiative which aims to lift knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia, by supporting Australian undergraduates to study and undertake internships in the region. The New Colombo Plan is a scholarships program which funds selected students for periods of study of up to one year.

The program also includes internships and mentorships, as well as flexible mobility grant programs for shorter-term practicums and research. Each scholarship is worth up to $67,000. This is the first time that a medical student has been awarded the scholarship. A third-year student who divides her time between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, while balancing study, clinical placements and interests in biomedical research and debating, Grace says she plans to use her scholarship to complete a two-month health policy research project at Meio University in Okinawa, Japan.

“I was so excited when I discovered that I was one of the New Colombo scholars, as it is an incredible opportunity which will allow me to work on a specific public health issue of interest. I have always had an interest in international relations and healthcare systems and this scholarship allows me to meld these two interests into one project,” says Grace. “I will be working with Professor Sumiko Ogawa, an academic specialising in international and humanitarian medicine at Meio, who I was introduced to through Griffith.”

“Under the guidance of Professor Ogawa, I will be studying how the health sector in Okinawa was re-built following the damage in World War II. I will be looking into what insights have been learned from this and how we can apply these ideas to areas of low health resourcing in Australia. Considering that Japan has one of the top ten healthcare systems in the world, I am sure that there are valuable insights to be learned and applied back here at home.”

“Eventually, I hope to have a paper published on the work.”

Research interests

Set to graduate with her medicine degree at the end of 2016, Grace has also been busy working with Professor Alfred Lam from Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“Prior to medicine, I started at Griffith on the two-year accelerated Bachelor of Medical Science program which also allowed me to develop my other great passion, which is medical research. There is a wonderful beauty in science and discovery atthe molecular and cellular level that continues to fascinate me every day. Inparticular, I have an interest in research at the cross-roads of endocrinology andoncology. I’m thankful for the excellent mentors and lecturers I have had in pursuing
this interest.

“Most recently, I’ve been doing research into the genetic links that may exist inpeople who get particular endocrine cancers, such as pheochromocytomas. Thiswas initially sparked by the work I did whilst at high school as a casual studentresearcher at the Mater Medical Research Institute, when I was investigating thegenetics behind obesity with Associate Professor Jon Whitehead.”

Grace says that following graduation, her aim is to continue her work in translationalresearch, focussing on endocrine cancers. She also hopes to effect changes inhealth from a policy level, either locally or internationally.