Currently a doctor working in the emergency department of the Townsville University Hospital, Grace Yeung is a Griffith alumnus of the Bachelor of Medical Science and the Doctor of Medicine. In 2020, Grace was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and will be studying a Master of Arts in Philosophy at Columbia University in New York City.
Grace will use her Fulbright Scholarship to pursue her research interests in philosophy, focusing on fields including epistemology, metaphysics and ontology. It is her aim to merge knowledge of these fields with neurobiological research to effectively alleviate symptoms of psychiatric illness. She credits her Griffith mentors for her success as an early career researcher.
“Both during my university years as well as after graduation, I was encouraged by personal mentors from the Griffith School of Biomolecular and Physical Sciences as well as the Griffith Honours College,” Grace says.
“I am so grateful for the support of academics, staff and former lecturers at Griffith who supported me during the process of applying for a Fulbright Scholarship, as well as in the preceding years when I struggled to persevere with my studies due to many difficult personal life events.
“My aim in studying philosophy is to help hone my understanding of the ‘big questions’, such as the meaning of suffering, the tenets of a fulfilling life, the role of religion and other questions often encountered by those experiencing mental and personal turmoil. At present, my plans are on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but even this experience in itself is an excellent learning opportunity – great fodder for philosophical rumination!”
While she waits for this incredible opportunity to come to pass, Grace is working as a senior house officer in the Townsville Emergency Department, where she helps treat anything from broken ankles, to acute kidney failure and florid psychosis.
“The constant variety and fast pace of the work environment is so addictive – I’m very fortunate to say I love my job and find it fulfilling,” Grace says.
“There are very few workplaces where you get to share conversations with people from all backgrounds and walks of life on a daily basis, especially when they are at a particularly vulnerable time of their lives. It is a privilege that I am grateful for.
“Years ago, I started my internship at Townsville Hospital and at the time, emergency medicine was my least favourite rotation! However, when I returned as a junior resident, I found the work very meaningful and made the decision to continue work in this specialty. I am due to complete my Emergency Medicine Certificate this year with the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine.
“If you had asked me five years ago where I thought I would be, it would not have been in an emergency department! I have no regrets about my years spent in this role, and I have learned so much about myself and my patients in the process.”
Grace is the second child of parents who immigrated to Australia from Hong Kong – she completed her schooling in Brisbane where a senior laboratory research project helped her discover her passion for research.
“My aspiration was to become a biomedical research scientist or clinical researcher, so I applied for the Bachelor of Medical Science which has a direct entry pathway into the Doctor of Medicine,” Grace explains.
“Life threw me many curveballs in the decade that has passed since then, and I not only learned a lot about myself, but my life goals also changed quite significantly. Not only did my career interests widen, but my personal horizons, character and faith were also transformed by the new life experiences and people I encountered.
“After graduating from my dual degree at Griffith University, I took a break from clinical medicine and completed a research honours year, characterising a novel diabetes therapeutic. When I returned to hospital-based work during my intern year at Townsville Hospital, I quite unexpectedly fell in love with emergency medicine.
“My experience in the emergency department has also led to my interests in youth mental health, especially amongst socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and minorities. I found that the great emphasis and value that our lecturers at the School of Medicine placed on empathy, compassion and genuine connection with our patients within the professional clinical setting to be of incredible importance not only in the workplace, but all of life.
“On the wall at work, there is a paraphrased quote from one of the co-founders of Cleveland Clinic in Ohio: “a patient is not an interruption to our work – they are the purpose of it. We are not doing our patients a favour by serving them. They are doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so”. I keep that in mind when I’m working, and it encourages me bring my best self to work every day.”
Grace has fond memories of her time at Griffith, where she not only developed the skills to work as a clinician and a researcher, but where she had also had access to life-changing experiences such as international exchange programs and professional development opportunities.
“My degree major was in medical science and medicine, but I was offered sponsored opportunities through the Griffith Honours College to attend multiple conferences and events outside of my home field of study, as well as to apply for international exchange opportunities. These included the International Youth Leadership Conference, Queensland Youth Parliament, Model United Nations and the New Colombo Plan with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade,” Grace explains.
“My university education took me from the deserts and souks of Dubai, where I debated about sharia law and the role of Arab nations with oil-based economies in promoting environmentalism, to the coral reefs of Okinawa, to advocating for improved legislation to prevent sex trafficking in a mock Parliamentary session, to the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo, and so much more.
“I would have never even dreamed upon leaving school that I would be able to travel to so many new places and to meet so many remarkable people. These experiences, along with the ‘bumps along the road’ which naturally come with young adulthood, have contributed immensely to the person I am today.
“Whether my aspirations in emergency medicine, medical research or youth mental health work eventuate or not is not the most important point, but rather what I do with the time I have, regardless of circumstance. Having this outlook on life, as well as a personal faith, has helped me to develop a deep sense of resilience, hope and purpose. I’m prepared to make the most of any crisis or opportunity that comes my way.”
If like Grace you’re interested in a medical career that will see you working clinically or in research, the Bachelor of Medical Science is for you. Completion of the program with a GPA of at least 5.0 and a minimum grade of Pass in the designated course Human Skills for Medicine will see graduates gain seamless entry into the Doctor of Medicine. Other popular pathways to the Doctor of Medicine include Griffith degrees such as the Bachelor of Biomedical Science and the Bachelor of Health Science.