Daniel Curran: committed to Closing the Gap
Daniel is a Yamatji man who started his pathway into medicine when he was 25. He set himself the task of getting his mature age entry, completing a 12-month enabling course and becoming a medical student.
Daniel says his growing awareness of the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous healthcare spurred him to do medicine. Watching family members struggle to access healthcare or engage with the system highlighted the barriers the Indigenous community faces.
“To me, health is the most important thing,” says Daniel. “I just always thought that way – it’s fundamental. And there’s a real need to knock some of those barriers down.”
Daniel completed the Indigenous pre-medicine enabling course through Curtin’s Centre for Aboriginal Studies. He credits course coordinator Dr Rachna Aggarwal as a driving force behind his journey.
“When I walked in, Rachna asked, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘I want to do medicine’, and she said, ‘Great, we’ll do that’ and I nearly fell over backwards.
“Growing up, never having anyone back you … for someone to say yes you can do it, that blew me away.”
Daniel dedicated his award to Rachna, who passed away 2 years ago from cancer.
“She was the course coordinator and our teacher, but she was also a mentor – someone who helped us with our applications, getting us into our courses. She was the first person to have faith in me, and in her heart, she wanted to get more Indigenous people into STEM education and the healthcare system.
“For that reason, myself and the other students are going to start a scholarship in her name for other Indigenous students.”
Daniel was the top achiever in his enabling course. He is now proud to be the first Aboriginal tutor in the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme at the Centre for Aboriginal Studies.
“When I was doing pre-med, I noticed that none of the tutors were Indigenous, and for an Indigenous course, this seemed odd.
“You have to be 2 years ahead to be a tutor. Two and a half years ago, Rachna said, ‘I’d really like for you to be a tutor’. As soon as I was eligible, I signed up.”
Daniel works with students one on one or in small groups. He helps them with course material but also with the transition into university life in a culturally safe way.
“In Indigenous culture, it’s extremely important to give back to the community,” he says. “If we want to have more Indigenous healthcare professionals and start to bridge that gap, it’s my responsibility to reach back.”
This week, Daniel was named the 2021 Shell Aboriginal STEM Student of the Year.
“I never thought I could get into medicine,” says Daniel. “And now receiving this award – what an honour. It’s hard to understand the magnitude.”
As he works through his third year of studies in a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Daniel is focused on playing a part in Closing the Gap.
“Eventually, I would like to set up some kind of organisation that addresses all aspects of Indigenous peoples’ health – physical health, mental health issues and looking after our spiritual health,” he says.
“One step at a time, but the ultimate goal is to close that gap.”
For other students taking that step, Daniel has some advice.
“Never stop learning. Whatever it is that you do, keep your brain active and stay sharp, and when that opportunity comes along, you’ll be ready and in control of how your story unfolds.”