Dr Anne-Maree Nielsen has been named the 2018 University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. She was a young mum when her own mother was studying at USQ in 2000. When her mother would return home from classes at night, Anne-Maree found herself reading the textbooks and coursework, but hadn’t considered that university could be a reality for her.

Anne-Maree’s interest in nursing from a young age coupled with her drive to assist in improving health outcomes for the Indigenous community led to her commitment to forge a hard-earned career in medicine, now working as a resident doctor at Toowoomba Hospital in the Paediatric Ward. “My mother was studying Psychology at USQ and always spoke so highly of the learning environment, of the academics and fellow students, and also of the Indigenous education units which supported her, so that just gave me the idea that I wanted to at least try uni as well,” she said.

Anne-Maree completed the Tertiary Preparation Program and went on to complete a Bachelor of Nursing in 2004, Master of Mental Health Nursing in 2008 and her Master of Nursing Honours in 2010. Anne-Maree began studying her Doctor of Philosophy with USQ before receiving support and motivation from peers, family, and university academics to go in a different direction to become a medical doctor. “I start my GP training next year with a focus on Indigenous health, primary and preventative health care, so I’m very excited about that,” she said.

Anne-Maree said by taking her first tentative steps into academia with the Tertiary Preparation Program, it provided her with the confidence to complete her Bachelor of Nursing and spend 10 years working as a Clinical Nurse in Aboriginal Medical Services. “I think having studied at a different institution, USQ is such a great institution in that there’s a real focus on engaging, retaining and graduating indigenous students across all fields,” she said. “I think USQ should be commended for that achievement.”

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