Personal tragedy empowers student to create change in rural communities

Kelly Meuleman at home on her family farm

When Kelly Meuleman started her pharmacy degree at Griffith University, her end goal was a career working for Médecins Sans Frontières Doctors Without Borders, but a tragedy in her hometown pivoted her career path on a new trajectory.

Kelly’s interest in pharmacy began whilst travelling throughout Iran. She learned of heartbreaking stories about the difficulties people had accessing medication there. It was then Kelly decided to become part of the solution and dedicate her life to helping people in need.

Then COVID-19 hit. As students transitioned to online study,Kelly needed financial support to help cover the costs of setting up a home office.

She successfully applied for the Chempro Chemists School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology scholarship, a $5,000 opportunity set up to support students enrolled in a Bachelor of Pharmacy and experiencing financial hardship.

Kelly Meuleman with her niece

“I know people might think a scholarship is just about the money, for me, it’s the motivation and encouragement I get when a total stranger shows faith in me,” she said.

“I am often plagued with self-doubt and wonder if I really am smart or capable enough to be the pharmacist I want to be. When you live away from your support system this is tough, so it gave me added confidence when I learned that I was the successful applicant for the scholarship.”

While completing Trimester 1, Kelly received tragic news that her brother-in-law had taken his life.

“When I was told, I also learned that he was the eighth person that week to commit suicide in Mackay. For me that is a statistic that I’m simply not willing to accept and ignited my passion to learn more about mental health,” Kelly said.

Where once her mission was to work internationally, she now plans to move closer to her sister and niece after she graduates and work in a community pharmacy with a focus on mental health.

“My new purpose in life is to work in regional towns like the one I am from and focus on the mental health crisis that plague these rural areas,” Kelly said.

Higher suicide rates are evident in young men in rural and remote communities compared with metropolitan populations and those living in the country are less likely to seek professional help for a mental health disorder compared to those that live in cities.

“I want to do my brother-in-law’s memory proud.

“Life has a funny way of pushing you in the direction you were meant to go and I’m grateful that I was awarded this scholarship so I can focus on becoming the best pharmacist I can be,” Kelly said.

Learn more about scholarships at Griffith online.

Help open doors to student education by financially contributing to a scholarship.