To mark the coming 10-year celebration of the Northern Territory Medical Program, we spoke to its Director, Dr Emma Kennedy, about the crucial role this program has in developing a broader workforce of health professionals in the NT.
What is your role and what does your work focus on?
I’m Director of the Northern Territory Medical Program, and a General Practitioner in Darwin. I’ve worked as an academic in the medical program since 1998, with some time off when my children were small, and I’m passionate about education in health, through both my clinical work and the program. I love facilitating learning through a reflective process, and the acute learning that comes from doing things.
What does the NTMP mean for the Northern Territory?
The NTMP has increased the opportunities for NT-based students to study medicine, and it’s also an important contributor to building capacity for health sciences learning here.
Students enter the course through the Charles Darwin University Bachelor of Clinical Science, or through the postgraduate entry pathway. It’s very important to enable supported learning environments for students who may have not been able to study without this. The students don’t need to move so far away from home to pursue their education.
These students become doctors who can apply modern practices in a culturally appropriate way with our communities and people. Clinical teachers across our sites provide high quality learning guidance and are key to developing a broader workforce of health professionals.
NTMP hosts students from all over Australia in medicine, nursing and allied health placements, and our model of health professional and cultural education together underpins the learning here.
What journey brought you to this point in your career?
I always wanted to be General Practitioner and the profession has lived up to my expectations – and more. I’m regularly surprised and humbled by the people I meet who toil with challenging health situations. I visited Darwin as a medical student, then as a junior doctor in GP training, and was able to work with Ada Parry in the area of cultural education with the junior doctor teaching program. We had a session once a month to share experiences in caring for Aboriginal patients. This was eye-opening and fed my enthusiasm for reflective learning practise.
A few years later, I was completing my Fellowship in General Practice in Adelaide and realised I missed the time spent studying and working in the NT. I applied for the Lecturer in General Practice position advertised for the establishment of the Northern Territory Clinical School. The role was a long way outside my comfort zone but I learned that this does not need to quell enthusiasm. Humility and respect have helped me find a way. The NT Clinical School became the NTMP 14 years later.
What is something you are most proud of?
I am so proud of my family and in particular my children who are growing up to navigate the complexities of a 21st Century life. They anchor me and keep me honest!
What does a normal day look like for you?
I have three roles (aside from the family) at the moment, and while they are all intertwined, they are all a bit intense.
How do you like to relax or spend your spare time?
I walk on the foreshore. The sea is a leveller – it’s always there, reliably coming in and out, not predictable but constant. I’m grateful to have varied work that is important and I appreciate having the agency to make a difference.