Model to mentor medico

23 May 2017
A multidisciplinary education and seized opportunities for success

Dr Rachel Thomas has traversed science, technology, engineering, modelling and medicine in her education and career journey and is encouraging others to seize opportunities and draw on diverse skills to solve problems and tackle the STEMM challenges of the future.

Dr Rachel Thomas standing with arms crossed at the University of Sydney

Dr Rachel Thomas visiting the University. Photo: Jayne Ion

Doctor, medical author and health-tech entrepreneur, Dr Rachel Thomas (BEHons/BSc, ‘04) has drawn on her extensive and diverse skillset to inform her innovative, award winning work.

In 2016, Dr Thomas was recognised as the British Medical Association’s Young Author of the Year for her first text book, Practical Medical Procedures at a Glance.

“The book includes online videos to help doctors and medical students perform procedures safely. I enjoyed writing it so much, I’ve just written my second medical text book, Medical School at a Glance,” said Dr Thomas.

Rachel’s path to award winning medical author and mentor was certainly a road less travelled by many in her profession.

“I completed a Bachelor of Science (Physiology) and Mechanical Engineering (Biomedical) (Hons 1) at the University of Sydney. After finishing honours, my plan was to continue at Sydney and study for a Doctor of Medicine, but I had actually moved to London as a fashion model. Modelling was going so well, I decided to stay and apply to Oxford instead. I was accepted into the graduate entry accelerated course that only takes 30 students each year.

I am currently working as a doctor in the public hospital system in London and I am also involved in a health-tech start-up, aiming to tackle healthcare issues with technological solutions.”

A multidisciplinary approach to her studies has informed the way Rachel approaches situations and problem solving in her professional roles.

“Science and engineering was probably an unusual starting point for a career in medicine, but the training from these disciplines helped me see the breadth in medicine. I developed a skillset for approaching systems and problems, and a structured way of thinking that is helpful in finding solutions. Medicine is like being a detective – and science and engineering provide the tools for it. Studying science and engineering before medicine has given me a wider range of experience and perspective. A greater breadth of knowledge makes you more equipped to deal with the challenges of the future,” Rachel said.

Medicine is like being a detective – and science and engineering provide the tools for it.
Dr Rachel Thomas

Alumna Dr Rachel Thomas. Photo: Jayne Ion.

Rachel is very passionate about encouraging young women into science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM).

“I would like to contribute to improving the representation of women into these professions. I think it’s key that we challenge our own views of what involvement in STEMM actually means, and who is now involved in it. STEMM covers many areas, and there are so many exciting opportunities. When I think about the genome and epigenome, and tech solutions for testing medications and solving healthcare issues, I realise we are only just getting started and STEMM has the potential to improve many areas, not just health related ones.”

Dr Thomas’s advice is to be open to every opportunity.

“Keep an eye out for creating your own opportunities. STEMM areas are evolving so rapidly, literally daily, and you can create whatever career you are after, with the flexibility to suit your lifestyle and interests.

“Be open to the world-class opportunities offered by the University of Sydney. One that stands out for me was completing a year on an exchange scholarship program at the University of California, Berkeley, which was an incredible experience,” said alumna, Dr Rachel Thomas.

With more than 300 partner universities around the globe, a short-term or semester-long student exchange or study abroad arrangement provides the perfect chance to travel, experience education from a different perspective and gain a specialisation from an international institution.

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