Indigenous perspectives on the desired attributes of medical graduates practising in remote communities: A Northwest Queensland pilot study

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Providing an emphasis on Indigenous health in medical undergraduate education is seen as a high priority by Australian medical organisations. A regional North Queensland medical school asked local Indigenous people to list personal attributes they want to see in graduate doctors who choose to practise in their remote community.


This 2011 pilot study used a participatory action research design, with 13 local Indigenous health professionals, elders and community members from Mount Isa participating as co-researchers in ‘Yarning Circles’ discussing desired medical graduate attributes. Medical school co-researchers inductively extracted themes from the discussions via a qualitative ‘grounded theory’ approach.


Eight major subtopics were identified by the Mount Isa Indigenous community around desired skills, knowledge and attitudes for graduate doctors: provision of quality patient care; culturally appropriate communication; medical knowledge; culturally appropriate knowledge; knowing the local health system; a positive personality; a positive attitude to working with Indigenous peoples; and a desire to engage with the Indigenous community.


Effective communications with Indigenous patients and working in remote Indigenous communities requires doctors to have appropriate clinical skills, medical knowledge, knowledge about how local health systems operate, familiarity with significant Indigenous health issues such as child safety and alcohol management, and positive attitudes to working with, learning about and providing an advocacy role for Indigenous peoples.


Findings have implications for enhancing the professional behaviours and engagement of James Cook University medical students in Indigenous communities while on rural placement and after graduation, and for Australian medical and health practitioners more broadly.

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