Anthony Murray is set to become Australia’s first indigenous orthopedic surgeon.
Fifty years after the Aboriginal people in Australia were awarded full citizenship, Murray is headed into a field that no indigenous person has previously entered.
Out of 4,800 practising surgeons, only two fellows belonging to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island descent.
Last week Murray and another trainee – who is pursuing otology in New Zealand – won the RACS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander SET Trainee One Year Scholarship. “I wear it as a badge of honor, but also as a sad realization of how long it’s taken for this to become a reality at all,” he said.
Yearly thousands of people are estimated to apply for the general surgical exam, which many fail. Following the general surgery exam is an even more difficult orthopedics exam. “I’m 11 years into a 16-year trek,” he told news.com.au. “And that’s the fastest you can do it!”
Murray literally fell into orthopedics by accident. At 18, he dropped out of medical school, decided to play AFL football, and subsequently injured his knee. During treatment, he fell in love with the profession. “To hear I would be the first, I was gobsmacked,” he reflected. “It just boggles the mind.”
Murray said he has not personally encountered any racism in the medical profession, but he has heard hospital staff use disparaging stereotypes in reference to Aboriginal patients.
The seven-footer said, at that point, he would promptly inform his colleagues of his indigenous heritage.