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Emeritus Professor David Atkinson

UWA Medical School

"Say yes to almost every opportunity, keep your options open, enjoy the journey and focus mainly on the present. The future will take care of itself."

David is a general practitioner and public health doctor who has mostly worked in Aboriginal health. Early in his career, he worked in remote Aboriginal health in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley, before returning to Perth to train in public health. He worked for UWA in public health, general practice, and international health before becoming the founding Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health in 1996 to increase the number of Aboriginal medical graduates. Since 2002, David has worked for UWA with the Rural Clinical School of WA (RCSWA) based in Broome, establishing a highly successful integrated medical training program in the Kimberley, including undergraduate, pre-vocational, and vocational medical training, and making an important contribution to the regional medical workforce. He has been instrumental in developing a strong local remote Aboriginal health research program in partnership with Aboriginal health services in the Kimberley.

Most interesting aspect of my career

Variety and the opportunity to develop new programs. This includes establishing the Centre of Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health at UWA, being part of establishing and developing the Rural Clinical School of WA, including making it a multi-university venture with Notre Dame and now Curtin, and developing and running GP training in the Kimberley for the Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services.

Most important experiences at UWA

The most rewarding part of working at UWA has been working with students and academic colleagues. This gave me the opportunity to explore a wide range of interests and be part of helping others to get the most out of the academic and clinical careers.

Where did you think you would end up when you began your career?

I began studying medicine with no firm plans, and after graduation, I was happy to work in hospitals and had not really thought about an academic career. In the Northern Territory, I developed an interest in Aboriginal health, and after eight years as a clinician, this led to public health training at UWA and hence my academic career.

What do you consider to be your most significant achievements?

I see my most important achievements as being my work with clinical and higher degree students and especially with Aboriginal students. My work in Aboriginal health aims to support Aboriginal community control and more equal partnerships with non-Aboriginal organizations.

Where to from here?

I look forward to continuing clinical work as a GP in Aboriginal health and my involvement in remote Aboriginal health research in the Kimberley. This will be coupled with more time for family and friends and looking out for new opportunities.

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