NT Medical Program turns 10

With a skill for creating opportunities and a determination to follow her dreams, Northern Territory born and bred Dr Claire Chandler was voted 2020 Northern Territory Young Achiever of the Year. 

Dr Claire Chandler (MD ’16) is one of the early graduates of the Flinders Northern Territory Medical Program and has remained a source of inspiration for many subsequent students ever since. She is remembered by Flinders Rural and Remote NT staff as a conscientious and diligent student who was determined to make a positive difference to health outcomes in communities. Dr Chandler graduated in 2016, and in the same year she won the Telstra Health – Rural Doctors Association of Australia Medical Student of the Year Award.

Following her intern year in Alice Springs in 2017, Dr Chandler was accepted into the paediatric specialist pathway with the Royal Australian College of Physicians, training to become a paediatric consultant. At the age of 28 she became the youngest paediatric registrar at Alice Springs Hospital.

‘In terms of career accomplishments, getting into a paediatric training program for me is pretty big,’ says Dr Chandler

‘You need to have a great resumé and you must interview really well. I got my top picks of hospitals for this three-year contract. By the end of my first year I was doing the same job as the senior registrar: I was by myself in the hospital overnight, looking after kids in the children’s ward and coming through ED, as well as resuscitating babies born at the hospital.’

With a skill for creating opportunities and a determination to follow her dreams, it is no surprise that Northern Territory born and bred Dr Chandler was voted 2020 Northern Territory Young Achiever of the Year.

‘Winning that award was fantastic,’ says Dr Chandler, ‘It’s something that I’m incredibly proud of, but also surprised and humbled. I do have a strong drive and passion for everything I take on, but I sincerely believe that as health professionals we have a responsibility to provide the highest level of care, treatment and service that we possibly can. And so that’s the baseline that I work from.’

Dr Chandler’s passion for healthcare and helping people started at a young age. At nine, she was a St John’s Ambulance Cadet, and the mother of her high school boyfriend (Darwin GP, Dr Karen Stringer) nurtured that passion, and encouraged her to pursue medicine as a vocation.

‘I only ever look back on my education at Flinders University with positivity,’ says Dr Chandler. ‘I knew all 26 people in my cohort and we all supported and encouraged each other, so it wasn’t competitive, it was just open and collegial.

She entered the Northern Territory Medical Program in 2013, following two years of undergraduate Clinical Science at Charles Darwin University, which is one of the key pathways enabling students to undertake their medical training wholly within the Northern Territory.

‘One of the opportunities offered through the Northern Territory Medical Program was to go out into remote Aboriginal communities and learn about the people, the culture and the very special type of medicine that exists there. That’s an experience I have that really differentiates me from a lot of other doctors.’

In 2020, Dr Chandler gained a three-year contract to complete part of her paediatric training program at the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane. It’s where she is working as a paediatric registrar until 2022, after which she vows to return to her beloved Northern Territory.

If all of those accomplishments aren’t enough to make your head spin, wait until you hear what she does in her down time. ‘My new hobby is learning to dance on roller skates,’ she says. ‘I can now do a 180-degree jump, and the moonwalk and skate backwards in circles.’

From the 2021 College of Medicine and Public Health Alumni Magazine – Read more

Find out more about studying Medicine in the NT

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