Bagpipe-playing, defence force veteran Jahan Barr – speaks on his medicine degree and career growth in NT

Unlike many of his colleagues, Jahan Barr’s pathway into medicine did not originate from an orthodox science background.

In fact, his career choices turned initially towards the military and the physically demanding role of a Navy Lieutenant. Jahan joined the ADF when he was only eighteen years old and enjoyed a successful eleven year-long career.

His final position in the Navy was an Executive Officer on one of the Armidale class patrol boats based in Darwin. Living in the NT during that time made him fall in love with the Territory and decide on relocating here permanently. It has also made him consider a career in medicine.

Jahan Barr outside of the Flinders NT campus in Darwin.

“I have seen the challenges that healthcare workers face and thought there is no better place to learn medicine and then give back to the community that has welcomed me in.”

Through personal events and injuries, he became increasingly appreciative of the outstanding work that healthcare workers carry out in order to help individuals like himself get better.

“I have had some pretty significant injuries in the past, where I had to have surgery and spent a lot of time recovering. In each of those occasions, it was the care and support of Medical staff that helped me recover.” says Jahan.

He wanted to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people who like himself needed access to quality care in order to improve their wellbeing and health outcomes. This is when he decided that he wanted to become a doctor.

“In my time in Defence I was fortunate to be deployed a few times and see the benefits that medical support can make to veterans and vulnerable communities. I decided that I would like to become a doctor to help give back and be a part of this important workforce.” says Jahan.

The Doctor of Medicine degree at Flinders University in Darwin came at the right time when Jahan was on the crossroads of deciding which path to follow in his career. Although none of it came without sacrifice. Jahan had to overcome a few stumbling blocks to get to where he is now. “Leaving full time work and a career to become a student was a challenging decision but worthwhile to pursue something I was passionate about.”

Nevertheless, the support he has received was second to none. “The opportunity to remain in the NT and study in a small cohort is something I value very highly. We get fabulous support from the Flinders NT teaching staff and opportunities in the NT hospitals that students elsewhere may not.” he says. “Having an opportunity to learn from highly experienced clinicians and study in a supportive environment is outstanding. There is a very low student/staff ratio and the support the staff give us is amazing”.

Still in the first year of his degree, Jahan has already had a number of experiences that left a long-lasting impression on him. “The Remote Health Experience where we got to travel to Katherine and learn stories and cultural practices from Aboriginal Health Practitioners and the Strongbala Wimun Grup (women’s group) was incredible. The women told stories around a campfire on the first night and discussed kinship systems and bush medicine which was a fantastic learning opportunity.”

“Another amazing experience was an acute care placement working with an anaesthetist in a surgical theatre which was a privilege for a first-year medical student.” says Jahan.

He is also highly complimentary about the laid-back Territory lifestyle and a plentiful of opportunities that NT has to offer. “The NT has more opportunities than people are aware of. Give yourself a few months and you will fall in love with the place just like everyone else does.”

In the future Jahan sees himself working as a Resident Medical Officer (RMO) at a hospital in Darwin or in Alice Springs, ideally in a setting where he is able to treat and see patients every day.

“I am passionate about emergency and remote medicine. My defence background has shown me how important emergency care is and how critical it is to provide it in a remote setting.”

One thing that may surprise other people about Jahan is that he can play the bagpipes! In his spare he also enjoys cycling to stay in shape and wind down after a long day of study. “I am outgoing and love learning new things” he says.

Another fun fact about Jahan: he decided to apply for the NT Medical Program after seeing the Flinders NT ad on the public bus circulating around Darwin! Little did he know then, he would be the one featured on the ad this year! Hopefully reaching out to the future Doctor of Medicine students in the same way that the ad found him at the right time in his life.

He also has a word of advice to people considering studying medicine: “Don’t underestimate your abilities, you can achieve anything with patience and hard work. I came to this program as one of the few students from a non-science/medical background and have been able to get through first year with the support and resources available.”

Jahan Barr is a first-year student at the NT Medical Program, part of Flinders University in Darwin. To find out more about the HECS-free degree and pathways to study Medicine in the NT, visit our website for more details, and contact our NTMP support team.

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