Doctor stories
March 13, 2023
Dr Mikayla Couch on the importance of educating the medical industry about Aboriginal culture

Dr Mikayla Couch has been practicing medicine for the past eight years. "I am a proud Bundjalung woman and doctor (in that order). I have a loving large family and they are the reason I have been able to study medicine and become a doctor."

She has worked across a range of specialties include Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Neurosurgery, General Medicine, Urology and Vascular surgery, Emergency Medicine, Paediatrics and Psychiatry.

"I love my job because I love working with people and talking to them about their health. I love that I can provide information and recommendations and follow people along their journey. At the moment that is with pregnancy care and it the most beautiful thing to see woman empowered and bringing new life into the world and creating a family."

Dr Couch is currently completing an Advanced Diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology and GP training through ACRRM and RANZCOG. She is also pursuing a postgraduate degree in Indigenous Health Promotion through Sydney University.

She is passionate about promoting a holistic approach to health, which takes into account the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of a person's wellbeing. She believes that as a doctor, it is crucial to view patients as whole individuals and to consider all aspects of their lives that may be affecting their health.

"As a doctor and being Indigenous it is important to think about your health holistically. All parts affect a person and have equal importance in one's life. We have to think that as health practitioners and treat the person as a whole."

Despite the high-stress nature of her work, Dr Couch makes a conscious effort to prioritise her own mental wellbeing.

"I do find this really difficult, especially in high stress jobs such as obstetrics and gynaecology. I consciously make time for relaxation activities which for me is art and craft. I love walking my sausage dogs and spending time with friends and family. I need these things to fill my cup so I am able to work more effectively."

Dr Mikayla Couch

Dr Couch identifies herself as "Dr Aboriginal Woman" to reflect her heritage and her passion for women's health. She notes that while the number of First Nations Doctors has increased from 200 to 600, there is still much work to be done to ensure diversity and representation in the medical industry.

She describes the increase as "a true testament to the hard work of our communities and people who have pushed through and completed a hard degree such as medicine."

An advocate for promoting education on Indigenous culture in the medical industry, Dr Couch believes that this education is not only necessary, but vital to improving healthcare outcomes for Indigenous patients.

"Racism is so prevalent through the health system it's endemic. It would be on a daily basis I hear or see racist acts occur and it breaks my heart. As health professionals we are first and foremost, do no harm. However, unconscious bias and racism is so prevalent most are unaware of their behaviours. Just recently, my supervisor knowing I was Indigenous imitated First Nations dancing as a joke. I am so used to this behaviour there was no shock."

Dr Couch is a strong voice against racism in the healthcare system and the importance of education.

"I would recommend my podcast, BLA.C.K Medicine available online on Spotify, Google and Apple podcasts. The podcast highlights amazing health projects and current Indigenous issues."

She encourages doctors to educate themselves and to challenge any instances of racism they encounter.

"I would also recommend speaking to your local AMS and getting involved in community projects. Find your local hospital Aboriginal Liaison Officer. They are a wealth of knowledge."

When asked if Dr Couch had any other advice for doctors she encouraged them to dream.

"I recommend always having hobbies outside of medicine. It is important to follow your dreams and believe in yourself. Dare to dream, I did, and it took me from a small town to the big smoke and to completion of a medical degree."

You can find more information on Dr Mikayla Couch's podcast here:

Follow Mikayla on Instagram @dr.aboriginal.woman

Article by
Dr Mikayla Couch

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