Qld Academy of Health Sciences graduates choose Griffith

Two of 2020’s top high school graduates, one of whom has already completed an exciting cancer research project at Griffith University, are now on a fast-track to exciting careers in medicine.

As former students of the Queensland Academy for Health Sciences (QAHS), on the doorstep of Griffith’s Gold Coast campus within the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP), familiarity bred the confidence they needed to set themselves up for success.

Studying a challenging International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program instead of the ATAR curriculum, Maggie Chi received a perfect IB score of 45 (equivalent to an ATAR 99.95) while Angie Zhou earned a near-perfect 44.

Their results put them among a global elite of school graduates, while Angie’s promising research at the Institute for Glycomics whet her appetite for continued medical research and bringing clinical advances to the bedside of her future patients.

Both say the appeal of being able to complete a Bachelor degree and then a Doctor of Medicine within six years, was a key point of attraction.

“I was really keen to shorten my overall study time to becoming a doctor, especially as we had the chance to study curriculum at first-year university level as part of the IB, so I should be able to quickly settle in and get ahead, “ Maggie, who received a Sir Samuel Griffith Award of Excellence Scholarship, said.

“I chose Griffith to study because the medical science program is really good for getting direct entry into the Doctor of Medicine, with the Bachelor’s degree pathway only two years and a student cohort that is small and personal,“ Angie said.

With almost all her friends choosing Griffith, and the backing of a brother who graduated with a Masters in Physiotherapy also recommending the university’s medical school, Maggie was easily sold. Her perfect IB score was considered a ticket to virtually any university.

The choice was even more compelling for Angie, who represented Australia in the 2020 Schools Biology Olympiad. After an internship with the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre in Melbourne at the end of Year 11, the opportunity to research a nano form of a breast cancer drug for her extended essay project at QAHS, provided a perfect introduction to Griffith cancer biology research.

“Chemotherapy drugs are harmful to non-cancerous cells and current monoclonal antibodies that selectively target cancer cells are big and expensive to engineer, so I wanted to explore whether nanobodies, which are ten times smaller, would be an effective alternative to deliver selective treatment,” she said.

Her supervisor, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Dr Farhad Islam, was suitably impressed.

“Angie did a great job in her project on target-specific drug delivery to cancer cells using a nanobody,” Dr Islam said.

“The results are promising and have the potential toreduce the side effects of chemotherapy drugsand could increase the efficacy of the drugs”.

Maggie was part of the Australian Team to the Asia-Pacific Forum for Science Talented in 2019 and also channelled a love of biology, combining it with a passion for economics to undertake her extended essay project into the ecological and economic impacts of salinity on agriculture in the Murray-Darling basin.

“While my focus is medicine, I’m also committed to following my interests in other areas where I can make a difference,” Maggie said.

Both women are looking to futures where they can help people. Maggie dreams of being part of the miracle of life as a specialist Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, while a specialty in Oncology or Immunology may be part of Angie’s future.

“I’ve spent a lot of afternoons and evenings in the Griffith University library and I’m looking forward to now being more independent as a student, but also enjoying the collaborative and social environment,” Angie said.

“Persevering through the IB has really helped me grow as a person and I feel ready — nervous but excited — for university life,” Maggie said.

The Queensland Academies Health Sciences Campus is one of three state schools for highly-capable students in Years 10 to 12 and is the only school within the GCHKP.

This allows the Academy to provide unique opportunities and enrichment activities including working in partnership with Griffith University.