In a new series, The Aus-PNG Network is profiling past participants of the annual Emerging Leaders Dialouge. Tori Berquist is a junior doctor at Alfred Heatlh, and sits on the Victorian Clinical Council. She lives in Melbourne.
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Tell us about yourself and your career.
Tori is employed as a junior doctor at Alfred Health, Melbourne. She was Chair of the Australian Medical Students’ Association and now sits on the Victorian Clinical Council. Tori is passionate about connecting the Western Pacific Region and working to reduce inequities, particularly in health, between Australia and its neighbours. Her interest in international and particularly regional health and trade is extensive. She has worked with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations as the Mental Health program coordinator, helped lead the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly in Geneva, and has attended two World Health Assemblies and the WHO Western Pacific Regional Meeting. Through her involvement in our region she has learnt much about the situation of health and its social determinants in PNG. She is set to broaden her skills and expertise as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group in 2019 having won their Asia Pacific Scholarship last year, with a view to working in international development particularly within our region.
What brought you to connect with Papua New Guinea through the Emerging Leaders Dialogue?
I’ve had a number of colleagues engaged in PNG through health-based exchange opportunities, however I was really mostly exposed to the successes and challenges of the health system in PNG through their representatives at the Western Pacific Regional Meeting of the WHO. Through encouragement from people who had previously been involved in the forum I applied for the forum in 2016 and had a fantastic time getting to know other young people in PNG involved in the health sector particularly.
In your view, why are people-to-people connections important for the Australia – Papua New Guinea relationship?
People-to-people connections are really the only way to build lasting relationships between the two countries. By understanding one another and hearing lived experiences, it enables empathic understanding of strengths and challenges each country faces and to allows us to utilise and address these in a collaborative way.
Through the lens of health, what do you feel are some of the most pressing shared challenges facing both Australia and Papua New Guinea?
I think the area of regional and remote healthcare is something that both countries struggle with. The potential for technology to allow us to connect with people and provide care has great promise for both of our countries. In addition, we both have fractured healthcare systems between different levels of government – we could learn much from methodology behind division and where we could improve. In addition, we are both facing the threats of climate change which alter the spread of diseases across our region including particularly mosquito borne disease.
What advice would you offer to Australian youth wishing to get engaged with the region and their nearest neighbour?
Definitely get involved with understanding PNG and meeting locals. PNG is such a beautiful country with rich history and traditions. Getting involved and embedded in the community, for example for students or health professionals with hospital placements or fellowships, provides a great way to develop connections, learn and share knowledge. Chat, be curious and be open-minded – Australia has so much to learn from PNG and vice versa.
What does the future hold for you?
To be honest, I expected this to become clearer as I work through my career but I must say I’ve only become more unsure! I’m enjoying my time working as a doctor at the moment, and will spend some time with BCG in the future which I’m really looking forward to. I’m interested in Masters studies in public health and policy which hopefully I’ll get the chance to take part in. Beyond that, I’m interested in finding opportunities to work in policy and international development – but who knows what the future will hold!