Doctor dreaming

Simultaneously starting a medical degree and a family takes courage and determination. Fortunately, James Tronc has both in abundance. The Indigenous health bursary recipient has always dreamt of being a doctor. And after eight years as a paramedic, he’s used to dealing with emergencies.

“I always wanted to have a career in health,” reflects Tronc. “I just wanted to help people. I originally thought about nursing, but the lights and sirens of the ambulance seemed more exciting.”

Tronc worked for 10 years with the Queensland Ambulance Service – eight of those as a paramedic – mostly in Townsville. He completed a bachelor’s and ultimately a master’s degree in paramedicine.

Tronc says he’s motivated by his Indigenous heritage and a desire to improve Indigenous health.

“My Mum worked in mental health, and my Aunties were Aboriginal health workers and nurses. So Indigenous health was always something I pictured myself doing. But, as a paramedic, there’s only so much you can do. It’s chronic disease prevention and management that’s the big issue.”

Tronc says the thought of being a doctor was always at the back of his mind.

“As a paramedic, you work closely with doctors. You admire what they do. I always dreamt of being a doctor, but thought it would be too hard. But then after a few years of clinical exposure, after I completed my master’s, I started to think – maybe I could do medicine.”

Tronc has just completed his second year of medicine. He says the MD is challenging and extending him in many new ways, while building on his existing qualifications and experience.

Tronc was awarded the Dr Alan Van Tran and Minh-Ha Tran Indigenous Health Education Bursary, which is open to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences. He says it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I applied for the bursary in my first year. I came into this knowing things would be tight. I’d been doing overtime and saving, but then there was day care, and then my laptop died. I still work casually as a paramedic sometimes, but the 12-hour shifts are tricky. We know where every dollar and every hour will be spent.

“Receiving the bursary covered my textbooks and contributed to a new laptop. It was a blessing and a great encouragement. We’re lucky to have people like the Trans. They’re good people and they’re proud of our achievements.”

Both Tronc and his wife Megan – a physiotherapist and UQ graduate – are from Chinchilla. They’re keen to one day return to a rural community.

“Ultimately we’d like to settle in a small town and become part of the community. I’d like to be a rural generalist. That’ll enable me to focus on Indigenous health issues and continue emergency medicine.”

Tronc says their greatest challenge and motivation is their son, Charlie – who seems keen to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Studying with a toddler is a constant challenge. Charlie was 14 months when I started. He’s three in November. I can’t keep him out of the study. He steals my stethoscope. He’s into firetrucks – he wants to be a ‘fireman-doctor’. So I gave him a toy doctor’s kit. He likes to check my ears.” 

This story is featured in the Summer 2018 edition of UQMedicine Magazine. View the latest edition here. Or to listen, watch, or read more stories from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine visit our blog, MayneStream.