How Tragedy Can Lead To an Inspiring Life In Medicine

How can people who come from a completely different workforce still get into medicine and flourish? Associate Professor Peter O’Mara is no stranger to this. In fact, he only started to consider studying medicine after a back injury in the mines.1

Being an Aboriginal living in the remote areas of Australia, the best jobs are what are offered at the mines. Getting an apprenticeship in the coalmines as a fitter machinist was thought to be the best job that Peter believed he could achieve. Yet, his fondness for medicine always stayed at the back of his mind. Thinking that medicine was only for rich kids or the children of doctors made him push it away.

After his back injury, he decided to become a clinical psychologist because he enjoyed talking to people. Enrolling into a Bachelors of Arts, majoring in biology and psychology he studied for two years when he witnessed something on TV that made him question his motive to pursue medicine.

Watching the first Aboriginal doctor, Dr. Louis Peachey, made him realize that medicine was not only doable but something that he could finally pursue. Like many of us, we always think about the jobs that we dream of having. For Peter, it was always medicine. And it is these life-changing events and witnessing others achieve their dream that really motivates and pushes us to pursue our dreams.

Being accepted into medicine at the University of Newcastle, Peter has had some troubles along the way. Just like you and I would go to those who give us words of inspiration, which emulate comfort and reinvigorate our hunger, Peter reminded himself of his grandmothers’ advice that he could achieve anything he wanted in life, which ultimately led him to graduate from medicine in 1999.

He believes medicine has made a big impact in not only his life but also the lives of those his treated, “I love this job. It is truly incredible to know that I can make a positive contribution to individual people’s lives,” he says.

Having accomplished his dream, Peter has continued his career as an Associate Professor at the University of Newcastle. Here, he encourages and directs future Aboriginal generations how best to grind out their medical studies as it can be very tough.

Despite being in the medical profession as a GP in Aboriginal communities and giving lectures at the University, Peter knows when it is time to stop and take a much-needed break. The doctor’s life style is often hectic and sometimes taking time out is the best way to prevent yourself from burning out.

Recharging and reconnecting with family is very important for Peter, as it helps balance his physical and mental health. In order for any of us to work at our best, we need to pull back sometimes and enjoy life for what it is.

The lesson to take from Peter’s life is that you can achieve your goal of medicine. Reflecting on his life and what he has had to do to get to where he is very motivating for those of us caught in the yearly grind of medical entry exams. Understanding your situation and what you can do to best support the community may be an encouraging motivator for you to pursue medicine, and perhaps even at times knowing when to stop, revive, and survive.


  1. Association, A.I.D. Journeys into Medicine 2016 [cited 2017 31/08]; Available from:
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Noman Bakhshi

Noman Bakhshi

Noman Bakhshi has achieved a Bachelor of Biotechnology with honours at the University of New South Wales. He has worked as a research assistant at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and Charles Perkins Centre looking into fly genetics. He is currently undertaking his Masters by Research at Neuroscience Research Australia and is working on dementia and motor neurone disease. He aspires to study medicine in the near future and hopes to be involved in translational medicine.