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Wylie Leeson - future graduate

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Wylie Leeson
2024 AMA Queensland Foundation Medical Student Scholarship recipient and 5th year JCU medical student

Wylie Leeson’s third year of medical school was derailed by unbearable, sharp pain resembling a back injury, forcing him to take a leave of absence from study and quit his two jobs.

After 18 months of enduring this debilitating pain, he received a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis and over $7,000 in debt from healthcare costs. 

“Adjusting to and accepting the diagnosis was difficult. The pain made studying for final exams nearly impossible, impacting both my grades and mental health,” Wylie said. 

“Once a high-achieving student actively involved in clubs, I almost failed my third-year exams. 

“I remember filling out a DAS form at the GP's office, hoping for a mental health care plan because my family couldn't afford psychology for me. The seriousness of the situation hit me then.”

Unable to work and generate a stable income, recovering both physically and financially while returning to study became extremely difficult. 

“I couldn't afford to continue with medicine, a field that is challenging even without a chronic disease,” he said. 

“One of the biggest things with any autoimmune condition is stress, and medicine is hard enough to balance work and study, then you add a chronic health disease which comes with all the mental health impacts. 

“To make ends meet, I lived in a self-built basement and had to build walls myself to afford a rental in Townsville with inflation.”

Wylie had not always dreamed of a career in medicine, but always knew he wanted to help people. 

As a child he grew up in Mitchell, a small rural town with only one GP, where he witnessed his family struggle on a single $50k income and eventually lose their cattle station they called home. 

“I originally went into the finance world with the goal of helping people with their money, because we lost our cattle station because of just that,” he said. 

“But I ended up hating finance because it's actually not about helping people.”

It was growing up in Western Queensland where he recognised the increasing demand for GP services and the long public health wait times and felt compelled to make a difference. 

“Then I went and applied for university and started studying medicine because I felt like it was probably one of those careers where you can actually, genuinely help people.”

Knowing rural communities would suffer the most from the increasing healthcare demand but declining workforce, rural generalism at James Cook University became his focus despite the need to move away from home.

“I'm a people person. I just love the idea of working back in my community and giving back. So, general practice really appeals to me,” he said. 

“Rural generalism, in particular, sort of allows that flexibility with the job role. It just offers that rural-focused training that I want. 

“I hope to contribute to under-served communities, fulfilling the dream that arose from my experiences growing up in the West.” 

Managing a chronic illness is no small feat, and for Wylie, this scholarship money will allow him the financial freedom to recover without the fear of having no roof over his head. 

“The treatments for this condition are all allied health, and all of that costs money which I don't have,” he said. 

“This scholarship just takes this huge burden of the health condition off my shoulders, because it will completely cover my rent, which means my money can go towards that allied healthcare.”