Growing up in an abusive home in regional NSW, Lucas Booth was 15 years old when he moved into his own place and began forging a better path. Education was the lifeline he turned to as a way to transform his life, as well as help others.
“I managed to get through year 12 with the help and assistance of friends. They not only provided food for me but demonstrated that life can be led without violence and abuse,” Lucas said.
Now 22 years later, Lucas will graduate from a Bachelor of Medicine with Distinction, and proudly join the University of Newcastle’s world-class alumni network for an exciting milestone – the University surpassing 100 Indigenous medicine graduates.
Driven by his experiences as a child, at 18 Lucas supported himself working at a supermarket whilst training as a volunteer telephone counsellor for Lifeline and then completing a Diploma of Community Services (Welfare) at TAFE.
“I’ve always valued the connection that can be had with people and, following the Diploma, thought that a job in health care would be interesting. I applied for and got a job as a trainee enrolled nurse at Kempsey District Hospital.”
Completing further tertiary education in social science and nursing, Lucas worked for many years in psychiatry and emergency, witnessing confronting situations that fuelled his dream of pursuing medicine to create positive change.
“I had dreamt of becoming a doctor for years but had convinced myself that I was not good enough, not smart enough and I lacked confidence. I was told repeatedly when I was a child that I was useless and stupid, so overcoming this and believing in myself has been difficult, something that I still struggle with today,” he explained.
Reconnecting with his Dunghutti heritage as a young adult, Lucas acknowledged his connection to the country and the support and guidance from elders as a reason he persisted with achieving his goals.
“I witnessed many poor outcomes, especially for Aboriginal patients, while working as a nurse. I ended up applying to do medicine to be in a better position to make a change.”
Gaining entry to the University of Newcastle as a mature-age student via the Indigenous pathway, Lucas was accepted to start the Bachelor of Medicine in 2012 but battled with recurring ‘imposter syndrome’ until support from the University gave him the push he needed.
“I was incredibly fortunate to receive scholarships from the Department of Health, Rotary and the University at various points during my studies. I am very grateful for the support because they allowed me to complete my studies and still fulfil my commitments at home,” Lucas said.
“I went to a skills evening early in my first year and the speaker was a GP registrar who had completed medical school with a young family.
“She said that when she was going through medical school she soon realised that ‘the only obstacles in her way were the ones that she had created’. I felt that this message was directed straight at me and started to live by that saying.”
Since beginning his career in medicine, Lucas has continued with the mantra, taking on leadership and mentor roles with the University’s medical society, Wollotuka Institute and the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, advocating for his peers at a national level.
Flanked by his partner of 19 years, Rachael, his children and close family, Lucas will mark years of hard-work and dedication as he crosses the Great Hall stage at graduation before continuing his journey. Now working in Coffs Harbour as a Junior Medical Officer, he is committed to continuing his work advocating for those in need of help.
“I am hoping to get into General Practitioner training and start that as soon as I finish my Resident Medical Officer year in 2020. I can’t see myself being anything but a GP. I like the idea of getting to know your patients over a long time and being their advocate,” he said.
Education was the lifeline Lucas Booth turned to as a way to transform his life, as well as help others.
I witnessed many poor outcomes, especially for Aboriginal patients, while working as a nurse. I ended up applying to do medicine to be in a better position to make a change.