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Dr Erika Chapman-Burgess

24 May 2021


Dr Erika Chapman-Burgess is a 29-year-old proud Ngurrabul and Goomeroi woman from Glen Innes in Northern NSW, currently working at John Hunter Hospital (Newcastle) as a year one RANZCOG Trainee. Interestingly, she is a part of a set of quintuplets, the only Aboriginal set of quintuplets in Australia.

 

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up in Glen Innes, a small rural town in Northern NSW on Ngurrabul Country where my mother Adele and father Ian were born and grew up. I completed my schooling through Glen Innes Public School and Glen Innes High School, which is the only secondary school in town. I am a country girl at heart and love the land we live on.

 

Where do you work? 

My education at medical school and career progression through medicine bought me to Newcastle, where I was successful on entry into medical school as a Year 12 school leaver. I went to Newcastle University and completed my junior doctor years at John Hunter Hospital and within the Hunter New England Health network. As a country girl, moving to the “city” was a big deal. I previously hadn’t driven on roads with more than one lane and struggled being away from my family at times, which was difficult.

 

Why did you choose medicine?

There are a number of reasons why I chose to pursue a career in Medicine, and funnily enough it was because of the TV show Greys Anatomy (haha). I remember watching an episode in year 7 at high school (when the show was in its prime) about these incredible, beautiful female surgeons operating in theatre and just generally being fabulous and I wanted that life! But ultimately, I grew up in a large Aboriginal family where I grieved relatives dying young with chronic disease and poor health. I remember going to see my GP when I was young and I asking, “Where are all the Aboriginal doctors?”, to which they responded, “There aren’t any...”. So, I wanted to change that.

 

Why O&G, in particular

A huge reason why I am so in love with Obstetrics & Gynaecology is the fact that I’m a Quintuplet. We were born at 31 weeks in 1992 at the Mater of Mother’s Hospital in Brisbane QLD as a set of 2 boys and 3 girls, and we are the only set of Aboriginal Quintuplets in Australia ever. I grew up with an understanding that higher order multiples are born safe, survive and do really well, but this is not always the case. Incredibly, my siblings and I all made it through childhood and survived high school, getting our P-plate drivers license (all at once) and all have completed tertiary education in our respective careers.

 

Challenges? Wins?

Current challenges I am facing is just trying to survive my first year of training! John Hunter Hospital is quite a busy tertiary hospital, and we support and provide a majority of referrals from northern New South Wales and the north coast. It’s hectic, but I love it. I’m finding everyday an opportunity to learn from my seniors, and I enjoy the “unknown” of O&G where absolutely anything can walk through the door. It’s exhilarating and I feel so privileged and honoured to be caring for women and working in Women’s Health.

 

Any future goals?

I plan to complete my four years of basic training at the John Hunter Hospital plus or minus advanced training time, but I would love to work in community and specifically in Aboriginal women’s health. I am currently completing my Masters in Remote and Indigenous Health, so the Indigenous Women’s Health Fellowship in the Northern Territory is very appealing to me for the future. Although it’s very early in my training and career, I am fascinated with fetal and obstetric medicine, so I’m very much looking forward to my MFM term and caring for high-risk Aboriginal women and their families.

 

What activities are you currently engaged with at the College?

I am currently on the RANZCOG Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Health Committee which oversees the Indigenous Women’s health aspect of the College, training and First Nations women’s health advocacy. We aim to meet 3-4 times a year to plan and action pressing First Nations women’s health issues. Currently, we are working on updating the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), as well as supporting our current First Nations trainees (there are 6). And working on strategies to increase First Nations representation at RANZCOG.

 

Being involved within the college is an amazing opportunity for me particularly as my drive is Aboriginal women’s health and I hope to proactively continue this role as I progress through my training and into fellowship.



Erika on a busy night shift in OT at JHH (Jnr Reg Nights)    2018 RANZCOG ATSI Women's Health Meeting Adelaide

Erika and Dr Laarnie Pe Benito (Year 3 RANZCOG Trainee)  Her parents Adele and Ian at her B. Medicine graduation University of Newcastle
     




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