Home » Podcast » Dr Mikaela Seymour, passionate about improving the health of rural and remote PNG communities

Dr Mikaela Seymour, passionate about improving the health of rural and remote PNG communities



In this week’s episode, Josh is talking to Mikaela Seymour who was a winner in the 2021 7NEWS Young Achiever Awards for Queensland. 

Dr Mikaela Seymour is a medical doctor working in Papua New Guinea. Over the last two years she has worked as the only doctor in some of the most remote and rural villages of Western Province PNG, accessible only by grass airstrips. During the global pandemic she was responsible for the COVID19 response and vaccine roll out. Working among a team of PNG health workers, she was responsible for maintaining primary health care, antenatal, family planning, and childhood immunisation programs, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Graduating from Griffith University in 2015 with a Masters of Medicine (MD) and Bch of Medical Science, she completed a Masters of Surgical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Global Surgery Course at Oxford University and Masters of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University. She is currently completing her Global Health Engagement Grad. Cert. at USUHS.

Mikaela is the founder of the Bush Dokta Subcommittee (Project Yumi Charity), connecting PNG and Australian remote health care workers, supporting grassroots health projects in Papua New Guinea. In 2018 she was awarded AMA Doctor in Training of the year due to her contributions to health care in the Western Pacific region, and 2020 Qld Young achiever for Health Care.

Dr Seymour is the past deputy chair of the Australian Medical Association of Qld (AMAQ) Council of Doctors in Training, previous Chair of the Junior Medical Officer Forum of Queensland and Doctor in Training member of the Medical Workforce Advisory Committee and Medical Schools Liaison Committee for the Office of the Chief Medical Officer.

During university, Mikaela was president and treasurer of the Griffith University Medical Society, secretary of the Queensland Medical Students Council, and ACRRM John Flynn Rural Scholar.

Mikaela was selected for the Rural Medical Education Association (RMEA) Placement to Western Province PNG and has continued volunteering in Papua New Guinea. She has been recognized by the Lowy Institute’s AUS-PNG Network as a Young Leader in the Pacific, attending the Aus-PNG Dialogue in 2017. Since then, she has been published in the Aus-PNG network blog, the Development Policy Blog Crawford Centre and the Lowy Interpreter on Pacific health issue.


In this episode:

  • We hear about Mikaela’s passion for her PNG communities, where she was able to really make  a difference
  • We got to understand just how remote some of Mikaela’s patients were – landing on “almost” runways then walking many kilometres to provide care


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[00:00:04] Annette

Welcome to the inspirational Australians podcast, where we chat to people making  a difference in their communities and in the lives of others. And here is your host for today. Josh Griffin

[00:00:20] Josh

Thank you Annette. Very excited to speak to our guest today,  Mikaela Seymour who’s in Queensland. But before we get started and bring Mikaela  Seymour on to acknowledge that we are recording on Bunurong country today and acknowledge the elders,  past and present and emerging. Mikaela is somewhere very different to many in Queensland,  which is experiencing some pretty extreme weather at the moment. So it definitely  came to us Mikaela about that, but the reason I’m excited to speak to Mikaela,  who is our guest with this weekly dose of inspiration is because Mikaela is  committed to rural Health outcomes and not just here in Australia,  but also in Papua New Guinea. So very excited to hear from Mikaela never been to  Papua New Guinea to hear what that’s like to hear what it’s like working there and,  and then back in Australia and Mikaela, you’d have probably  a lot of great insights into just public Health in general at the moment in  a time that I think people had that term public Health more than ever in the last  few years. So Mikaela, welcome this morning.

[00:01:12] Mikaela

Thank you so much for having me and yeah,  absolutely.  Your response is very similar to I think a lot of questions,  including our closest neighbour. You can see. Yeah. When you’re in the Torres  Strait, you can see connectivity and the same thing from  a lot of areas. That’s where you see Australia, but lots of people here haven’t,  haven’t been, I don’t know a lot about it. So it’s a very interesting place to work.

[00:01:35] Josh

Yes. Well, I’m going to show my ignorance because I’ve been to Vanuatu,  but I don’t even really know if that geographically is that close or is similar in  terms of the, you know, the lay of the land and that kind of stuff. Well,

[00:01:46] Mikaela

no, actually a Republican is literally at the northern tip of Queensland. It’s a very,  very close to us. So you know,  the joke is that it’s about four kilometres of New ride together. And pre-covid,  there was a lot of crossing of that, that zone the traditional border crossing. So we share  a lot of culture and we share a lot of history there. And a lot of hill’s background as well,  whilst its closest neighbour and culturally somewhere that we really close with  from a Health perspective. And if someone like me,  it’s really interesting sort of breaching or trying to work with that zone in  between two countries with very different Health systems.  But people that are basically living in one area, the,  the imaginary border that doesn’t really exist when you’re crossing the can when  your family, when you have an aunty in the Torres Strait. But your Uncle’s story, well, my

[00:02:36] Mikaela


[00:02:36] Mikaela

is just across the border in PNG. There’s no real border,  the communities there are very similar they they share the same culture and history  to them. There’s no change in Australia, it’s just family and traditional zines. So yeah, really interesting.

[00:02:51] Josh

So you mentioned the Health system is very different here. I used to, if we’ve got a problem,  we can just walk in and walk into the hospital and it might be a bit of a weight,  but we can get it all sorted. What is the Health system in PNG like

[00:03:04] Mikaela

it’s so again, very, very different. So just causes a middle income  country,  but about 80 percent of its population is living in rural and remote areas. As if  most of those people, if they’re lucky, they’ll have  a community Health worker who someone with maybe a few years of training,  who may or may not have had medications and can score goals dropped off and timely  manner. So one of my jobs all over the western province, I had  a geographical area that was about the size of Victoria where a population that was completely dispersed. So it’s  a very remote area groups. And as the, as the only doctor, as far as Health program,  we have to look at how can we assess this population. That’s so spread out over such  a big area.  So I was really fortunate in that I had these awesome patients to be so  Right. Midwives, family planning offices, water sanitation,  high taxes. Basically we’d go into these remote villages. A lot of the time we’d have to catch  a small eight person flight. So this little caravan change is one big propeller on  the front. And they will try and get us into some of these grass airstrips couldn’t  always get in. Sometimes it was just too remote and that the airstrip. This wasn’t viable,  but try and get into these cross airstrips and then walk to whatever community we  was scheduled to go to and stay there for a week or two. But at the same time, it’s  a completely different kind of medicines.  If you imagine me coming from working in  Australia and working for the sunshine coast, where if I need something,  I call the pharmacist. And if I need something else and there’s  a whole store in that I could go and access to to get the best catch my patients.  Whereas now I’m somewhere where all I’ve got is two backpacks that I’ve packed with  Medical supplies. And if I use them on the first day, I’m going to have nothing to do on  a limb and work out that really austere type medicine. And how do you look after  patients with only what I’ve got in that bag?  So a lot of the time it was primary healthcare because we would go,  we try and go every six way. So we have  a rotation so that we’re trying to follow up with these communities. Unfortunately, in the past,  a lot of programs or really good intentions or charitable groups have just gone in,  visited once they’re left again and no follow up. So although, it was  a little bit different that we were trying to go back every six weeks to make some  sustained Health changes. Obviously, that’s not perfect. And a lot of these development challenges,  there’s no perfect solution. Obviously having some of the ground 24-7 would be best,  but this is kind of the best compromise we can come up with. So most of the time it  was more primary Health Care things you see about. But then of course,  when you’re living in a village for two weeks,  you’ve always got your two and mom and labor and newborn babies.  And also  because we’re living a committee where there’s no electricity, no running water,  people find fuel source is wood. So people will be chopping wood for their cooking  fire and they actually take a photo and you’re the only one there. You should,  you’ve already got your back. So doing the best you can, but I think as  a doctor it definitely tells you how resilient you can be and how much you can achieve with  a little. So although in Queensland where in Australia we’re so used to having so  many resources and so much available when you’re sick and you go to your healthcare  provider, there’s a lot that can be achieved with just the basics. Yeah, it’s nice to be reminded.

[00:06:29] Josh

Yeah, well that’s a good point when you are kind of stretched and forced to think in your face and  use what’s in front of you. It’s amazing what people can do. Yes,  I’m interested in how you got started doing that in the first place and when you  first became fully qualified as a doctor, what led you to yet to pursue that type of project?

[00:06:48] Mikaela

I got really lucky in Medical school in that I was able to go to do  a placement in New Guinea in a small town called Cuba that had  a district hospital as part of your study. When you graduated Medical school,  you can, you can do an elective in anything that interest you as  a lot of people with gardens and prestigious universities overseas brands like  Harvard and things like that. Instead I went to Cuba so much to learn more about  Tropical medicine. And we were a small group as we were really lucky,  that these doctors were happy to supervise us and share their knowledge. And then  after that it kind of just kept going. And then my intern year,  I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I thought I can go back to this volunteering.  So I took my annual leave to go backpacking.  And then after that it was the  hospital ask me all, can you come back and help come and leave?  ? And then I’ve been back every year for five years. And you know,  I was getting more and more of my time. And to the point where I got invited in,  do you want to come and volunteer more permanently here?  And I originally signed the three months thinking. I’ll go in and help out for three months,  see how it goes. And now it’s two years in the global pandemic chart in the middle.  So not the original plan.

[00:08:03] Josh

That’s what’s wild, isn’t it? So you’ve been going, you’ve been traveling back and forth  a bit even through these last two years.

[00:08:09] Mikaela

Well, we’re mainly just in PNG. So many people that we’re probably overseas or young  people that we’re trying to study and work on projects. The Australian government  took over closing borders. So I did come home originally. It was just that waiting  game of when I could get back again.  I got very fortunate in that I was able to  take a work project in Malaysia that was really interesting to see that South-East, Asian culture, different Pacific culture,  different again to Brisbane Australia which has Medical care. But then I got  permission to go back to PNG and which was fantastic. But by the time I got back to  PNG, it was a very different ballgame. So before I left,  we would talk about things like childhood immunisation. We’re looking at big net distribution. We’re looking at malaria coverage,  we were talking about things like water, sanitation,  how we get people to toilets appropriately from their homes and those sorts of  things that are usual to promote medicine and steering development Health projects.  But by the time I got back, it was all about covid. Luckily, the Pacific,  you would have seen in the news that the Pacific was relatively unscathed from their remoteness. They were fairly lucky,  but covid was breaking out in PNG as I returned. That was kind of that first wave  unfortunately, but in those really remote communities, it was kind of,  if you lived in the city and you could see people getting sick and you can see the  results that they made a little bit more sense. But if you live in a really rural and remote community,  it just didn’t mean anything to you. But we kind of acknowledge that we had this  time frame where we needed to protect these remote communities before covid  inevitably came.  Are trying to explain to people how,  how do you get people to wash hands with soap when there’s no running water?  When you don’t have the board is clean. If you only have, if you’ve got  a water shortage or you live somewhere where you don’t have water security,  you’re going to save that water for drinking and cooking. You’re not going to use  it for washing your hands. So  a lot of the messaging that we was seeing Australia just make no sense to these  remote communities. So social and saying, what does that mean when you live with 20 family members in one house?  Because most of your lifestyle is outside social distancing, didn’t make sense hand washing with stupid holes,  and then mask wearing was just non-existent. So it was really tricky for us to try  and come up with innovative ways to educate people about the threat that might be coming their way. Because these,  these groups were nowhere near hospital. So if they went into respiratory distress,  there was no way that they could get the oxygen or assistance or Medical care that  much stabilized. So prevention was key. We then got access to the vaccines and it  was most of those which were generously donated by Australia as  a major supporter of the vaccine program in the city. But the problem we faced,  and I think was really difficult for people back here in Australia to understand is  a lot of the rhetoric in the media was just keep more vaccines. Just keep all  vaccines. There was never a shortage of vaccines.  But in a country where they have so many other problems,  when have family members often die of malaria or other infectious diseases,  there was a bit of skepticism about why was there a vaccine for this when there’s no vaccine HIV?  Was there a vaccine for this covid threat that we can’t see,  but you won’t help us with malaria medications that were always running short on. There was  a healthy amount of skepticism that we had to work through. So it was kind of this  whole situation where you could see the threat improve Moresby,  in urban centres where people getting really sick from covid. We had these really  remote communities that were sealed off from it, but for how long

[00:11:39] Mikaela


[00:11:39] Mikaela

clock was ticking. It was only  a matter of time until someone got there with the illness and you know what was  going to happen when there was no Medical care. And we had something that could  protect them. But you know, it was a really good test of Health education and engaging with the community working  through our concerns and it really, it really pushed us to our limits. Because at the same time, you know,  it’s not our job to force anyone to get vaccinated. It’s a personal decision,  but it’s really tries you personally, when you think it’s something, it’s OK to do that. You know,  they’re working through it themselves. I think the other thing people didn’t  appreciate maybe in Australia when there was trying to send more vaccines to PNG, trying to just explain what  a vaccine is. So although people knew that children were getting shots injections  when we tried to explain what was the same as the childhood vaccines realizing that  actually people didn’t understand what they were. So  a lot of people had grown up seeing children getting shots and just thought of it  because our kids are sick all the time. They’re getting shots back to bodies,  or they’re getting Medical shots. So they didn’t actually understand what  a vaccine was. One of the immune system was the Health literacy was was very low.  So we were sort of had more challenges and barriers maybe than they were faced in Australia.

[00:12:56] Josh

And that comes back a bit to what you were saying about the importance of Health education.  You know,  perhaps that wasn’t clearly conveyed enough historically that that’s what these vaccines for the kids are doing, you know?

[00:13:06] Mikaela

Yeah, and you just can’t make any assumptions about people’s knowledge. So it was really,  I mean, I think for our team, even though they were competitive and obviously these were Health workers at to  university and had a good understanding. And we, we sort of assumed that people on  a certain level and then covid really opened their eyes to what was really happening,  I guess in some of the communities with their Health understanding.

[00:13:27] Josh

Yeah, it’s so true.

[00:13:28] Annette

Hi, I’m just interrupting this week’s podcast to let you know about one of our lovely  New members. A membership package only costs fifty dollars  a year and you get heaps of benefits, including a shout out on our podcast. So  a shout out goes to weight, belt and beyond youth mentoring. It’s  a mentoring program to inspire and empower young people in the wheat belt region in WA,  and we get to speak to Janine from weight beyond youth mentoring. In the next couple  of weeks on the podcast, so stay tuned, you’ll find out more about it then. Back to our podcast,

[00:14:02] Josh

I just have to ask you, made a note, this is very grasshopper thinking,  so I apologize. I’m just jumping back  a bit.  One thing I want to ask you about is you are talking about the pilots  landing on these tiny blue Cross airstrips. Firstly where they even airstrips or  are they just, you know, through cross paddocks that you landed?

[00:14:19] Mikaela

Great question. So I’m not a pilot or an engineer and I’ve flown not because when we started the program,  we landed a lot of paddocks and fields that as the program’s expanded and the engineers have become involved,  we found out that we probably should have been blessed to all the places  so this is  great both to be pilots and volunteers that come to just basically serve because  this is no other way to get to them. It is a couple of hours on  a small plane or weeks walking. So to take all that Medical equipment,  you just couldn’t physically walk that or can do that. But that’s the reality for  a lot of these communities that can be cut off. If you need something from  a small town, you have to do a walk. Sometimes for weeks, so these,  these pilots are really committed to trying to get us in there because they knew  the need. And when this Medical sees,  they’re the ones that have to go and try and pick up patients if they can at all.  So they were really committed to getting us in there, but in retrospect, yeah,  so I don’t know my mom’s livestock stuff.

[00:15:27] Josh

So mikayla, I want to ask you as well about the project,  you may push doctor initiative and something that you founded you jealous. Like  when that came about and kind of what it is

[00:15:37] Mikaela

at this stage of it going back to being

[00:15:39] Mikaela

a couple

[00:15:39] Mikaela


[00:15:39] Mikaela


[00:15:40] Mikaela

.  And I found those, this disconnect and that there were lots of people,  especially Health workers in Australia who wanted to help these rural clinics. And there was a huge need. So  a lot of these folks

[00:15:48] Mikaela


[00:15:49] Mikaela

weren’t getting the things they needed to provide patient care. But I guess the problem was the intermediary, you know,  how do you think the people that want to help in Australia with these remote  clinics? So we, we just kind of, it wasn’t a genius idea. It was  a rocket science. We literally just thought, hey, it was me a couple of Australian doctors,  a couple of Papua New Guinean doctors just being like, how could we make that happen?  How can we get the help that is here that people want to give? And once tonight,  over there to where it’s needed. So we just started really small and we partnered  or we joined an existing grateful credit Union. They were doing awesome stuff,  sending basically school classrooms over to PNG. Like hey, we want to do the same with Medical care,  so they took us on which was awesome.  And we unfortunately sort of slowed it down  a little bit in our plans because obviously shipping has been a huge challenge. During covid 19,  we’ve seen empty empty shelves in our shopping centres,  but we have had some pretty great successes. So for example, one of our projects,  something for Bush babies in PNG. The average woman will have four or five children  in those rural areas. They usually have  a lot more and it’s usually commonplace for women to deliver it to push delivery  which is basically what it sounds like. And they leave the Village and they’ll go  to their babies sometimes by themselves and come back once it’s done, which I mean

[00:17:14] Josh

by themselves.

[00:17:15] Mikaela

Yeah, yeah. Which is pretty shocking. It is terrifying,  especially when know I’m about to turn 30 and I couldn’t imagine the things that  some of these young women have done. This must be very, very scary,  but it’s just sort of the cultural accepted norm.  The problem as well is that there’s still a distinction,  especially in remote areas of men’s and women’s taboos. So  a lot of men just have no understanding of what’s involved in childbirth and they  just think all women do it all the time.

[00:17:43] Mikaela

So that must be,

[00:17:44] Josh

it must be easy. I mean,

[00:17:46] Mikaela


[00:17:46] Josh

,  exactly. I’ve seen two firsthand and it’s still the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. Yeah,

[00:17:52] Mikaela

and I think it’s funny that you mention that. So one of the things we’re trying to  do over the Health was get men to come in and be with their wives when they give  birth. And some men are totally against it from that,  that cultural background. But I think the younger men are going to be more  interested in, and once they see that, I think they have  a lot more respect for their wives. So something that we always try and do is  involve the husband because once they understand,  I think it changes the dynamic. But what we were trying to do with our Bush baby  project was encourage more women to come to supervise delivery. Because we know the  World Health Organization says for emergency maternal obstetric

[00:18:29] Mikaela


[00:18:30] Mikaela

,  about 90 percent, that can be dealt with with fairly low resource,  very basic interventions. So if you could just encourage women to come for  a supervised delivery with the help you work out, the chances of surviving childbirth dramatically increase. But saying that is  easier than it sounds. You know, some of the clinics I’ve had to do, I’ve know nine,  10 11 hours and maybe month to get to villages up sheer cliffs or the sort of thing  where you’re walking along and don’t realize that it’s in between the trees is  actually off a cliff face these, these past treacherous,  but by the time I get some of these villages, I’m covered in mud. I can you?  And that’s me just going to backtrack and then to ask  a pregnant woman nine months pregnant woman to try and walk. You know,  a lot of the time even further than that for days, if not a week in those conditions. It’s  a big ask. Totally.   So we would try to look at what,  what can we do to try and support women on that journey to try and get them to  prevent potentially what they need,  but make it sort of worth their while. So one of the things we found is  a lot of women, especially remote women,  would turn up to the clinic but not have anything for their children. And that’s  understandable when you come from somewhere. We can’t visit to the shops and buy  things. There is no shop, then you have to carry it all this way with  a huge rally. You’re not going to be carrying  a big bag with you and you got to carry your baby back.  So the really simple thing  that mothers really loved was just the baby bundle. So we were giving something  that we knew evidence based that helps babies sever regulate, to keep a temperature of normal,  helps with hygiene while giving just simple baby clothes that were donated enough  in Japanese blanket towels and hygiene products and underwear for mum. And people  loved it. And the husbands as well were more likely to encourage their wives to go  if I knew they were going to get  a small gift. So it was just mind blowing that something so small could make such  an intervention in this rural hospital that was supporting. So we’ve now expanded  that to three rural hospitals to support women coming in to delivery. And we’re  happy to continue that. So we’ll see what happens.

[00:20:40] Josh

So many amazing challenges that  we never think about. Yes. So call that,  you know, just coming in and saying, hey, you should do it this way. And as you said,  changing the culture and the way that they’ve done things for so long. But just  making those little improvements in coming,  I guess to them what’s going to be beneficial to them and help them the most. Yeah,  it’s fantastic when you’re not in PNG. Obviously you’re back in Australia in  Queensland. What are you doing in the interim when you’re not over in PNG?

[00:21:07] Mikaela

That’s a great question. And so my heart or what the plane was pre-pandemic and Pre sort  of being responsible for everything to become  a rural DJ. So you can obviously tell from my story that serving rural and remote  communities with no access to Health Care and looking at ways that we can maximise  the services that we offer safely. With less resources I’m quite passionate about.  So I’m actually heading out to level to enjoy on Monday to start where I got there  today. So they very graciously taking me on for a little while until I can get back to PNG,  going out there and letting doctors out there trying to get some skills that I can hopefully transfer back again.

[00:21:51] Josh

So whereabouts is kingaroy?

[00:21:53] Mikaela

It’s about three hours North West, really inland to the sunshine coast. So Luckily they haven’t got flooded out there.  But I’m still a bit nervous that someone’s got to get back on the drive. So we’ll see how we

[00:22:04] Josh

  1. Yes. So what’s it like where you are now, so you’re kind of near the sunshine coast? Is

[00:22:08] Mikaela

it not? So I’m I’m in Brisbane and Brisbane biologist have been yeah,  it’s been pretty shocking. I’m very lucky that I live up to the hill so personally have been affected,  but I’m saying you just can’t drive anywhere. The roads completely blocked off the  water is, you know, bus stops that, you know, there,  that usually catch the bus from. You can hardly see the roof of them that the water started going down,  but just seeing the amount of belongings that people are putting out on the street,  you know, the flood damage the devastation because that are ruined. It’s just, yeah,  it’s really heartbreaking. And I think unfortunately these extreme weather patterns  probably something that’s going to continue.  So for us here in Brisbane,  where we can get electricity and we can access services to come and help us clean up afterwards and we,  we can rally the community and have access to those logistics although incredibly devastating. What’s happening? We’re  a little bit more resilient to deal with the effects. So if you think about what’s  happening now, Pacific neighbours, if you ask people in the street, people, you know, you wouldn’t say whether is  a Medical problem.  But in the past two years I’ve, I’ve realised that extreme weather patterns do make  a huge difference in the malaria outbreaks of had to respond to due to inundation flooding,  the stagnant water that’s left over afterwards. And then with the malaria outbreak.  And then all the kids at school, off school, they’re sick, they lose  a year of schooling, which it just has huge consequences, for example, even  a snakebite. So when it floods in these rural communities in PNG,  the stakes are flooded out of their and they’re in the houses. People are getting  bitten by snakes and that’s a life ending event. If we can’t get antibiotics,  which is not accessible because as our fridges, because of electricity,  you can see how the cycle continues. So although it’s an incredibly devastating  here and heartbreaking for many people, it does remind you that we’re in a little bit of  a better place to deal with the consequences compared to the communities I’ve been  working with that are also facing the same extreme weather events. Like, for example, you know,  just women are not able to feed their children. So when flooding like this happens,  they can’t access that God and they don’t have pantries for food. They only farm  what they eat. So if you can’t access the garden, you can’t get your food,  then you’re going to go hungry. It’s interesting and I think unfortunately,  we’re going to have to deal with more of that and look at ways that we can make the  Pacific more resilient to these challenges.

[00:24:36] Josh

Yeah, that is a huge challenge and it sounds like the right people are just, you know, your passion,  it just really shines through Mikaela. It’s quite inspiring. And I guess you  mentioned that you had this interest and even back in Medical school interest in  that area. So was there something in particular that sparked that for you,  that passionate interest in rural Health and Tropical Health?  ? Or was it just something that you discovered as you were kind of learning more and on your journey?

[00:25:02] Mikaela

I’ve always thought it was something I discovered as I went,  but when you look at it in retrospect, I mean I was,  I was actually born up in Cairns. So I think those early influences that you don’t  realize maybe. Yeah, that you probably look back on and go,  oh maybe that had more respect then than I thought it did. So no. When I started  Medical school and no plans to be I had no plans to go and work for the development  or Health development programs. But it just sort of transpired that it was something that I well,  I think I hope I’m good at it. But you know how you go along and you have these  brand people starting up. You always have this great plan of what it’s going to  happen at the end. And then you realize along the way that maybe you can make  a greater impact on something else. And it seemed to me that I was just more useful  in this role than anything I had planned in Brisbane.

[00:25:50] Josh

That’s really cool. Now you had those connections, as you said,  that must have been drawing you to it subconsciously even. Yes,potentially. Yes.  The other thing you mentioned is you said, oh,  hopefully I’m good at it. Well, you’re an award winning doctor Mikaela, so I’d say that’s evidence right there.

[00:26:07] Mikaela

Good point. Yes.

[00:26:09] Josh

Now before I talk about the awards that you know,  you’ve won through our associates and how we’ve kind of come across you with seven  years. Young achiever awards. Tell us about this accolade you’ve had which I  believe was the AMA a doctor in training of the year a few years ago,  2018. What was that award for

[00:26:25] Mikaela

that’s an award given by the Medical community. So with Australian Medical Association,  and it was an award where junior doctors nominate someone at that stage,  I had to move to Japan full time. And I guess I was still a bit unsure if,  you know, am I doing the right thing or am I wasting my time here?  Am I really making a difference? Is all this extra hard work on top of a full time job?  ? Is this really making a difference through my just chasing my tail and really putting myself under  pressure. But so much gain and then this,  this is what came around to hear your peers recognize what you’re doing. It was  hugely motivating and I guess validating that OK,  maybe I am doing the right thing. If they all want to support me in this way and  encourage me this fight then. Yeah, it was just fantastic. It was really, really nice. So gave me  a bit of support in the Medical community as well with the projects we were doing  with the project.  You mean pushed up there to help us launch that and connected us  with people in the Medical field that that wanted to support rural clinics as well. Which is awesome.

[00:27:29] Josh

I’m glad you touched on that. It’s really special to know that  your peers are behind you and supporting you. Because, you know,  we all face doubts and anxiety. And imposter syndrome gets even the most impressive leaders and,  and high achievers. So it is special to kind of have that backing. And I’m sure  that powered you on as well.

[00:27:45] Mikaela

Yeah, definitely. And it just gives you that extra motivation to keep going when you  think you’re tired and everything that happens and all of a sudden you feel quite renewed. So it’s nice. Yeah.

[00:27:58] Josh

So I have to ask a bit outwards as well.  So the seven news young the, what’s for Queensland?  We were stoked to present you with an award because for us, it was  a return to events last year. In that lovely break in the pandemic in 2021. And it  was April, I’m remembering correctly,  okay. And you won the Health and wellbeing of what very fitting of course. So lucky  to tell us what it was like being part of that, you know, Firstly being announced as  a finalist and then taking us through the words presentation. Yeah,

[00:28:25] Mikaela

absolutely. So I think sometimes I imagine people in other fields feel the same way.  Sometimes you get really insulated. So I think at that stage I’ve been really  medically focused and blinkers on about what people do in the Medical field. And  then I came across something on social media about the seven young achievers awards.  And I was just so blown away by all these amazing things that people were doing  on the field. And I was just reading about all these amazing things that people  were Achieving and entrepreneurs and business leaders and charitable groups and not for profit. It was just sort of like  a whole nother World out there. It was great. And I thought, well,  how else would it be to be in this network with  a community of people kind of looking into it.  And I sort of mentioned to  a friend as well, how do you see what this test is doing?  One of the, the award winners in 2020 was also involved with PNG for  a technology project. And we were having a look at that. She said, oh, what,  what do you apply for this? Yeah, so we thought, oh, you know, this is pretty prestigious people involved,  but there was a

[00:29:26] Mikaela

surprise involved as

[00:29:26] Mikaela

well. And we thought we could do  a lot with that money. Like if we got anywhere close to the finals, you know, that could be  a game changer to really help us our projects. So we kind of had that. What do we  have to lose moment? So we put together the application and we just thought we’d see what happened and  then we got semi-finals, which is really exciting. And then next it was the finals. It was  a really fun process as well. But more than that,  also just learning about what other people were doing on the way. So it was  a really fun night to be able to go to that in-person event, not that table with everyone,  and hear their stories and also have their family there as well. And hear how they  got to where they are and how I guess the community see these, these leaders as well. So yeah,  it was really thought it was really nice that anyone was thinking about applying. I  encourage you to have that. What do you got to lose my mind? It’s a lot of fun,  although the award was amazing. I think the process is probably more fun. Like just seeing everyone,  seeing all the applicants reading about everyone going through the rounds. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:30:26] Josh

It was. It’s great to hear Michaela and you know,  it is human nature to kind of sometimes pause and think, oh,  but what if I don’t win then it will be a waste of time. But as you said,  we definitely encourage people to apply and kind of not have that in the back of  your mind. Just think about the benefits it could do in it. We have heard from  others as well that it actually can be quite an interesting process to reflect back  on what has happened and actually write that down in the form. Because sometimes  the only time you might do that is in a resume. But this is much more personal writing rather than  a résumé style. So that’s great to hear that it was really enjoyable for you. And  we actually just recently held our first event in Melbourne for a long,  long time. It was amazing to be back in just here. As you said, hero story,  you see the family celebrating people and it’s really special when it kind of,  as you touched on that you were really supported by your peers. We felt affirmed that what we’re doing is  a great we were happy to be back doing it for sure. So Michael,  let me kind of answer to this a little bit in some respects,  but kind of what’s next on the horizon for you. I know you’re about to head up to  kingaroy and you mentioned you’ve got hopes to go back to PNG soon. Feel free to  add to that in the short term and maybe even, what’s that longer term kind of in the pipeline perhaps?

[00:31:33] Mikaela

Yeah, great question. So I guess the correct answer is I need to finish off some training  that I’ve got scheduled for rural and remote medicine. But I think as you probably realize at the interview,  my heart is defined as Pacific and getting back to PNG. So it looks like I’m  probably going to be going back to assist with the covid program as the World opens up. Unfortunately,  these small nations are also smaller in Australia and they who have been maybe  protected by isolation are going to become less protected by the remoteness. So I  expect that we’re going to see a few more outbreaks dissipate. So hopefully that,  that job’s going to involve creating resiliency or preparing for those  eventualities. But I think my heart is definitely in Health development in the  Pacific and working on Health systems that increase Health equity. So that,  that means improving access for all people in the Pacific to the basic Health needs  that sometimes we take for granted here in Australia,  just because I was born in Canada and someone was born just  a few kilometres North. I have access to passing all when I need it to  antimalarials the injustice of geography. But I did propose a couple of couple  a couple of and not have the same access. So really working on levelling the  playing field and getting basic Health Care access for everyone.  The Pacific is I  think where my long term future is going to be. Hopefully,

[00:32:55] Josh

what’s something else that, that draws you to that because, you know,  I know that obviously you have these passionate about helping people. But you know,  the people must just be beautiful and the culture must be amazing to be,  to have fallen in love with that place. So much

[00:33:08] Mikaela

Yeah, it definitely is very complex, very interesting culture. There’s definitely challenges.  Treatment of women is  a huge issue and sorcery related violence is  a huge issue and things that it’s an amazing female leaders that are trying to  address these problems. But I think there’s a lot that we share that I think again,  like like I said at this sort of you, I mean, our geography, our history, there’s  a lot that we share in the Pacific that I don’t think Australians are as aware of  as they should be, I mean

[00:33:40] Josh

for me.  Yeah, well, I wasn’t aware

[00:33:42] Mikaela

people in PNG, very aware of Australia and our politics and what’s happening in Australia. But I  don’t think we see the same thing in our media or we don’t have the same  discussions over dinner about what’s happening. Port Moresby, as they do about what’s happening in Canberra.  Yeah. I think it’s one of those things where, you know, as Australians,  we love to travel. We love to see New cultures as something New places,  but going to PNG. It’s not that different from home. So people are very welcoming  and they understand Australian culture and it’s quite easy to work in that context,  maybe or a little bit easier and you feel a little bit more that it’s like home.

[00:34:21] Josh

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I guess one of the last things I wanted to ask you was,  we found out that you’re a very inspiring person. But what is that that inspires you, Michaela?

[00:34:31] Mikaela

Oh, well I think I definitely draw my inspiration from the people around me. So that’s  why being involved in something like this is really fantastic because even when you lose sight or maybe feel discouraged,  seeing other people Achieving and knowing what’s possible is really inspiring. So I think we all,  we all feel inspired when we have successes and things go well I think it’s  challenge for funny operation when we’re feeling maybe more down or motivation,  tired of seeing other young leaders having their successes and sharing their story is inspiring. So hey,  this thing’s like this podcast is really helpful to hear people’s stories. But also just like you said when,  when people apply for the award and they reflect on what they’ve achieved, already realising that it’s usually  a lot more than you thought. And so she can you talk to other people and ask them  to help with your application. You realise that you’re,  you’re actually doing quite well. So yeah, in terms of drawing inspiration,  it’s definitely from the people around me and people like the young ladies.

[00:35:32] Josh

That’s a great answer.  Thanks for taking the time to help spread the story of the  important issues that people in PNG are facing. Make people like me aware of just how close we are. Yeah,  I didn’t realise just how close it is geographically to Australia kilometres. It’s  amazing, but helping give us that inspiration, Mikaela. Before we head off,  is there a way that people can kind of follow your journey and, and keep on top of what’s happening?

[00:35:57] Mikaela

Yeah. So is probably if you medically minded,  follow me on Twitter so that thick fog and cold not very exciting. But otherwise  you have to reach out to me on  social media platforms. I’m very accessible,  especially if those people that are looking at doing projects in PNG or already  have things existing there that they want to talk about or other Pacific islands. Yeah. Love to chat,  especially to the people in the Health or development fields that are looking at  work in the Pacific and love to connect.

[00:36:26] Josh

Wonderful.  We’ll put those details in the show notes if people can easily get in contact with you. Michaela,  thank you again for spending some time with us today.

[00:36:33] Mikaela

Thank you for having me. Great

[00:36:35] Josh

hope you enjoyed that interview. If you liked it or any of our other episodes,  it would be great if you can write and review the inspirational Australians podcast.  It really helps us out if someone you know, needs  a little dose of inspiration. Why not let them know about this podcast? And if you haven’t already,  make sure you subscribe. So that you won’t miss an episode. Join us each week as we  talk with ordinary Australians, Achieving extraordinary things. You can always head to our website at awards,  Australia dot com slash podcast for more information and details on each guest. Now  before we go, I’d like to thank Annette our producer. Here’s  a fun fact. Annette is my mum and our other host, Geoff,  is my dad. This podcast is brought to you by awards, Australia,  a family owned business that proudly uncovers the stories of people who make  a difference for others. We can only do this with the support of our corporate and  not for profit partners as they make our awards programs possible. So do you know someone making a difference?  If you’d like to recommend someone to be a guest on the podcast,  get in touch through our Instagram page, inspirational Australians,  or maybe your business might like to sponsor the podcast or get involved with the  awards. We run at our website awards Australia dot com for more details until next  week. Stay safe and remember together we make a difference.

[00:38:02] Annette

Thanks for joining us today on the inspirational Australians podcast.  We hope you enjoyed listening and have been inspired by ordinary Australians. Achieving extraordinary things,  so it’s goodbye for another week. Remember together we make a difference.