Caring for yourself to care for others

Doctor of Medicine student Bjarke doesn’t really know where his interest in medicine came from.

“It’s not like anyone in my family is a doctor,” he says. “It’s just something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

Bjarke grew up in Denmark and only came to Australia when he was 14. He says he found it challenging at first, being from a different culture and having a different language, but he soon settled in and graduated Year 12, undertook a bachelor of anatomy and human biology at UWA, completed an honours degree, and eventually made his way to Notre Dame.

“I’m halfway through,” Bjarke says, “which is exciting, because we just had two years preclinical and now we have two years in hospitals and seeing real patients.”

The experience of seeing real patients and applying the knowledge he has gained throughout his studies is something that greatly appeals to Bjarke.

“I think first and foremost, no matter how smart you are, no matter how well you speak, if you don’t have a passion for helping others and you aren’t able to empathise and communicate with your patients and peers, you’re not going to be able to do medicine.

“Notre Dame teaches you to not just see a patient as a collection of symptoms, but to look at everything in their life from a holistic point of view.”

Bjarke recently published a paper with another student in his cohort that looked into assisted reproductive technology.

“It was a long time coming,” he says, “it’s a long process. All the peer reviewing and back and forth, but hopefully one day it might make a difference.”

The next two years are looking bright for Bjarke, and the future holds any number of possible career trajectories.

“I’m just trying to keep my head above water to be perfectly honest,” Bjarke says with a laugh, “it’s a tough course but it’s great.

“Fortunately, everyone here is so genuine and they really care about you. As a cohort we have weekly clinical debriefings, which are basically a chance to discuss things you’re finding tough, things you’re struggling with, and it’s great because it really ensures that we’re taking care of ourselves.

“If we can’t take care of ourselves then we can’t take care of anyone else.”

Find out more about Notre Dame’s Doctor of Medicine.

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