Griffith experts agree representation matters in healthcare

Dr Dan Wilson, a hospital registrar and gay man, explains why representation is essential in healthcare.

A Griffith panel of experts has agreed it is essential patients from all walks of life see themselves represented by the clinicians that treat them.

Ingrid Ozols

The importance of representation was front and centre in Griffith’s Virtual Open House, “You can’t be it if you can’t see it. Why representation in healthcare matters” recent webinar, which featured members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, LGBTQIA+ and mental health communities.

Griffith Master of Suicidology student and founder of Melbourne-based mental health service mh@work Ingrid Ozols said it was extremely valuable to have people with lived-experience of mental health helping those going through a similar experience.

Ingrid is a survivor of attempted suicide and lives with bi-polar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and binge-eating disorder.

“What I have been trying to do is role model hope and recovery,” Ingrid said.

“With the right care — of which I have been a beneficiary — there is so much to life.”

“Even through the ups and downs of managing challenges, lived experience can inform and offer so much richness as we are the stories behind the statistics.

Dr Blake Jones

“Sometimes if I share that vulnerability it shows that it’s okay for that person so share theirs.”

Dr Blake Jones, a Birpai man and aspiring physician, is working with Griffith’s First Peoples Health Unit and Queensland Rural Medical Education to establish a mentoring pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students, said better representation included mentoring upcoming healthcare professionals.

“Representation to me means the visibility that comes with being an Aboriginal person… in the hospital, with patients, among other staff and the medical education world,” Dr Jones said.

Cassandra Nest

“For junior doctors and medical students mentoring relationships are so important… and it’s about facilitating professional growth in a way that you feel like you’re not being judged and it’s also culturally safe.”

Griffith alumnus and First Peoples midwifery lecturer Cassandra Nest also spoke of her experience as a Ngunnawal woman providing care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers with the Waijungbah Jarjums Service.

“In Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, an individuals actual relationship to the land and their kin group and totems are all attained through the pregnancy and birthing experience, and those important aspects are integral to our holistic view of health and dreaming and laws, and set you up for where you sit within the community,” Cassandra said.

“Through understanding that our definition of health incorporates more than a Western world view, and includes not just the physical wellbeing, of an individual but also the social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of the whole community, you can start to understand the importance of providing culturally safe care and what that means.”

Hospital registrar Dr Daniel Wilson (main image) is passionate about providing access to healthcare for rural Australians and the LGBTQIA+ community, with lived experience as a cisgendered gay man surviving domestic violence.

“In the LGBTQIA+ community, those individuals are more likely to experience ill health in terms of their mental wellbeing and increased risk of suicide… due to a lack of access.”

“For myself, as a gay man, it’s really difficult to come forward when you’re experiencing a health condition and bring with you a baggage of wondering if you are going to be judged… for the way I live my life or the way that I am and it can be really hard to find a close connection with a practitioner that you feel safe with,” Dr Wilson said.

“It’s great to see there are some steps that are being taken at the moment to increase the level of education to healthcare practitioners to practice culturally safe care in the pride community.”

The “You can’t be it if you can’t see it. Why representation in healthcare matters” session was hosted by Griffith alumnus Zoe Gill, who is Assistant Director Behaviour Support at NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission in Queensland.