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Indigenous quintuplet graduates with medical degree at University of Newcastle

Erika Burgess-Chapman has dreamt of being a doctor from a young age.
Erika Burgess-Chapman, a member of Australia's only set of Indigenous quintuplets, is graduating with a medical degree from the University of Newcastle.

Supplied: University of Newcastle

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A member of Australia's only set of Indigenous quintuplets will graduate with a medical degree today after six years of study.

Erika Chapman-Burgess will be supported by her parents and quintuplet siblings at her graduation ceremony at the University of Newcastle.

The 24-year-old hopes to close the health gap for Aboriginal people, and specialise in obstetrics and gynaecology.

Dr Chapman-Burgess grew up in the New South Wales rural town of Glen Innes, and dreamt of being a doctor from a young age.

"At the time, in my family, there were a lot of health problems and health-related disease with Aboriginal people," she said.

"During my entire life up, until the age of 18, I'd never met an Aboriginal doctor in my area.

"It wasn't until I moved down here to Newcastle that I met an Aboriginal doctor, so I thought, 'wow, maybe I should have a go at this'."

Dr Chapman-Burgess said there needed to be more Indigenous doctors to help close the gap for Aboriginal people.

"Regardless of who you are or where you come from, if you are an Aboriginal patient and you have an Aboriginal doctor there's an instant connection and it's relatable," she said.

"We do need more doctors because there is the background of the culture and how you are able to relate to these people, and there's more likely to be compliance if there is that relationship."

Erika Chapman-Burgess (seated second from left) with her parents and quintuplet siblings.
Erika Chapman-Burgess (seated second from left) will be supported by her parents and quintuplet siblings at today's graduation ceremony at the University of Newcastle.

Supplied: Facebook

University first in the country for Indigenous enrolments

The university's pro vice-chancellor of indigenous education and research Professor Steve Larkin said it was a remarkable achievement.

"The path through higher education is not an easy one at times, particularly in a degree such as medicine," he said.

"The student has been able to get through that degree and complete it, and is now starting on her career.

"What makes it even more satisfying and exciting is that it's actually her passion — that's what she wants to do with her life.

He said there were several challenges for Indigenous university students.

"Financially it's a hard slog, and there's an education system that hasn't historically responded or taken account of Indigenous learning needs and Indigenous cultures," he said.

"Some of those things still remain, and this can just compound the experience for Indigenous students.

"For Erika to graduate in this degree, she's had to work and study very hard and overcome a number of challenges and she's done that with the support of her parents, and her family, and her partner."

Professor Larkin said the university worked hard to attract Indigenous students.

"We're ranked first out of the 39 universities in Australia for the number of Indigenous students enrolling at the university, and we're rated second out of those 39 universities for the rates of completion by students," he said.

"We're a sector leader by far, but we're not satisfied with that. We're continuing to ask questions about how we can do things better and make the student experience even more positive than what it is."

Erika Chapman-Burgess will be supported by her quintuplet siblings at her graduation ceremony.
Erika Chapman-Burgess said there needed to be more Indigenous doctors to help close the gap for Aboriginal people.

Supplied: The University of Newcastle