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Dr Vanessa Lee Striving to Make Change

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Aboriginal woman wearing glasses, a dark jacket and scarf covered with Indigenous designs
Dr Vanessa Lee
14 Feb 2017

Dr Vanessa Lee is from the Wik and Meriam Nations and grew up on Thursday Island and later moved to the Cairns area to complete her schooling.  Dr Lee studied a Bachelor of Teaching Degree majoring in Early Childhood at the Queensland University of Technology and after graduating in 1995, taught for 10 years in various areas across Queensland.

Dr Lee has also implemented programs working with children and families on Thursday Island in the Torres Strait to combat diabetes and obesity.

“At the end of 2004 I wrote a proposal based on this public health work and my Undergraduate degree to the University of Queensland for entry into their Master of Public Health Program”, Dr Lee said. 

“This degree led me to living in Bangladesh for five months researching vitamin A deficiency in pregnant women.  This was no easy feat. However the research findings contributed to increasing funding for nutrition programs for women and children across Bangladesh.”

“Upon returning to Australia I enrolled in the Doctor of Philosophy in medicine, specifically public health, working full-time at Griffith University as a lecturer.  I decided to pursue a Doctorate in Medicine after a conversation with my grandmother while listening to a segment about the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal people and the Little People are Sacred Report on the radio,” Dr Lee said.

Dr Lee studied and worked full time while raising her two children.

“Griffith University offered a scholarship which I applied for and won. I worked full-time and studied for nine years while raising my two sons,” Dr Lee said.

“It feels fantastic to have my PhD after all of the years of hard work and I’m now in a situation where I can continue toward the overarching goal of bringing awareness to health disparities, changing policy and the importance of prevention to improve the determinants of health, efficacy and linkages of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”