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From an international medical student to the health minister

By Ming Yong - posted Friday, 26 October 2012


Dear Mrs Skinner,

I am an international medical student and I would like to point out that I have never felt so discriminated against in my entire life. I hope you are aware that this is in reference to your comments in the Sydney Morning Herald article titled "Foreign medical students fight for right to complete degrees " (Oct 22, 2012) in which you said "international graduates should pay the cost of internships themselves", noting that "international medical students pay fees to attend university but they have not been required to pay fees to fund the cost of intern training they receive after graduation".

I love Australia, and I want to serve your workforce. I would love for the opportunity to fill in the workforce shortage Australia is predicted to face, a shortage outlined by the Health Workforce Australia 2025 Report, which states the strong possibility of a severe shortage of doctors in this country by 2025 if no immediate actions are taken. Drawing back to your statement, after having spent almost up to $300 000 on my 5 year degree just on tuition fees alone, and not including all living expenses, I would think that spending additional costs to work as a doctor, serving your public healthcare system is rather absurd. If this is the case, I would rather train elsewhere - somewhere that will appreciate my willingness to serve better than you have.

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Despite being international, all Australian-trained medical graduates understand the Australian people, how to communicate with them, the dynamics and demographics of the Australian society and over the course of our degree, have had an education with an emphasis on key healthcare issues, prevalent diseases in the community and common illnesses unique to both rural, indigenous and urban Australian societies. To say the least, despite being international we are equipped to serve Australia, as well as Australians if I may add.

Having spent so many years here, falling in love with this country, its people, its culture and having felt integrated into the Australian community, it would be a shame if I am forced overseas and be denied the chance at serving a wider population I have grown so passionate for. All this because people like you stay oblivious to the need for acknowledging international medical graduates as Australia's best long-term solution to the medical workforce shortage, especially when the workforce should be ready to serve Australia's growing ageing population. All because people like you prioritise my future and the future of my fellow colleagues below Motorway signboards and political games.

As an international student, I have always been treated by Australians, be it my fellow colleagues, patients or people I interact with in public domain, as though I am Australian myself. Never have I been reminded that I pay up to four times more in tuition fees than my Australian counterparts. Never have I been reminded that I do not receive any Medicare benefits, any HECS support for my fees, or any student concession for public transport. Never have I been treated any differently from my Australian friends. I have always been proud of this feat, but since that SMH article in which you were quoted in, I do not feel the same way any more.

In all my years in Australia, I had only been discriminated once for being international – by a shagged racist old man on a public bus who called me a cockroach. I would like to commend you, Mrs Skinner, for having discriminated against me in ways far worse than that of a shagged racist old man on a public bus.

Yours truly,

Ming Yong

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About the Author

Ming Yong is an international student studying medicine.

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