Supporting women in pursuing their dreams

Monday, 26 April 2021

Sarina Zhao is the 2020 recipient of the Valasi Bleazard Memorial Scholarship in Medicine, a scholarship made possible thanks to the generosity of the late Valasi Bleazard who left a gift in the will to support female students at the University of Newcastle. Sarina is currently in the third year of the Joint Medical Program and we caught up with her for an update on her studies and aspirations.

Supporting women in pursuing their dreams
 Sarina Zhao is honoured to be a recipient of Miss Valasi Bleazard’s kindness and grateful for the additional opportunities it has provided her on her path to becoming a doctor and tackling health inequity.

What drew you to a career in medicine?

Growing up surrounded by role models in the medical field, it has always been my dream career path as a kid. As I got older and gained a better idea of what this actually entailed, I seriously set my heart on pursuing this.

How are you finding your studies and the University of Newcastle experience?

I am now in third year, just started placement and am loving it! It has been so exciting to see concepts we have been learning on paper over the last two years put into practice.

Any university degree entails an academic workload, but my experience so far has been characterised by so much more. It is a treasure that the Joint Medical Program community is made up of students from all walks of life, all ages, and hailing from cities all across Australia and the world. I have also enjoyed the pass/ fail system which promotes an academically supportive environment and the general sense of comradery at the University of Newcastle.

How has the Valasi Bleazard Memorial Scholarship in Medicine helped your studies?

This scholarship has helped me alleviate financial stress by reducing how much I need to manage concurrent work, volunteer and study commitments. Thus, allowing me to savour and contribute to my degree, thrive and grow as an individual, and engage beyond clinical study in areas that interest me.

Specifically, this scholarship allowed me more time to invest in helping to foster a sense of belonging and positive medical student community as a volunteer in the University of Newcastle Medical Society. I am passionate about health equity (from health access to health literacy) and this scholarship also supported me to learn more about these issues and benefit from broader perspectives such as via the Australian Medical Student Association National Convention.

What do you know about the late Valasi Bleazard whose gift in her will led to the creation of this scholarship?

Naturally, I wanted to know more about the person behind the generosity. As an avid piano player, I was delighted to discover that Valasi spent her adult life as a piano teacher. In fact, I found her ad in a newspaper from January 1922!

Are you an alumnus who benefited from the assistance of a scholarship? Let us know your story by emailing

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