Precinct's top minds help clear Parramatta high's career path

More than 80 Parramatta High School students kept some of the nation’s most brilliant minds ticking over earlier this month as the University of Sydney showcased the multitude of careers on offer across the Westmead Precinct.

The aim? To show students a career in health wasn’t just about studying nursing and medicine. It required collaboration across disciplines and specialties - and a host of options existed.

Co-ordinated by Dr Pearl Lee, Senior Science Communicator (Health) at the University’s Westmead Initiative, the careers day featured sessions including ‘Music, health and wellbeing’, ‘Creating solutions in health care – biomedical engineering’ and ‘Technology, innovation and health’.

Career options covered dietetics, physio, radiation sciences, technology, biomedical engineering, research, and business management.

Tegan Cheng’s hands-on bioengineering activity set the pupils’ imaginations ablaze as the challenge to match body parts with each 3D-printed prosthetic or device prompted a flurry of questions.

“How long would it take to develop something that would help people?”

“As an engineer would you need programming knowledge or software design?”

“What other body parts can you design prosthetics for?”

And “Have you ever worn one?” To which Tegan replied: "Yes. They told me I was the worst patient."

Open dialogue and a hands-on approach formed a common thread throughout the day as a panel session discussed career options in the health sector.

Panellists included Aleksandra Petrovic Fabijan from the Westmead Institute of Medical Research (WIMR); CEO of the Westmead Fertility Centre Lindsay Gillan; research officer, vaccine safety at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Catherine Glover; Vossco Nguyen, radiation therapist from the Crown Princess Mary Centre; and physiotherapist at Westmead Hospital Krishni Jayawardana.

Vossco’s insights into career pathways in health were appreciated by students on the verge of selecting their senior subjects.

While exploring career options in health, he quickly fell in love with radiation sciences. "If you think TV dramas are dramatic, you should work in oncology!" Vossco said.

Panellists underlined the importance of working in a field that inspired and satisfied individual needs.

“Science and maths were always competing interests for me,” Catherine said. Her role at the NCIRS now allows her to work with numbers in health data.

First and second year students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music also developed educational activities using body percussion, singing and classical music to explore the relationship between music, health and wellbeing.  

Program manager of Innovative Technologies at the Westmead Initiative Martin Brown wound up the day by sharing with students how his hobby in carpentry had led to his current “career number six”, including working with Nicole Kidman and Leonardo DiCaprio as producer of Moulin Rouge and co-producer of Romeo+Juliet.

His advice for students: “The problems we're now confronting are so complicated, we need people who can think creatively and collaborate with others. These skills are going to be needed in the future.” 

Parramatta High School careers adviser Michelle Ibrahim said the day was designed to help students understand the need to follow their own aspirations amid the ever-changing workforce options.

“We hope this will inspire them to choose different career paths in their lives and to do what they feel comfortable in doing,” Ms Ibrahim said.

“We want them to feel happy with whatever choice they make and feel more confident about what they’re going to choose for their future careers.”

The June workshop was part of the Westmead Initiative’s student outreach and engagement activities in western Sydney, delivered in collaboration with the University’s Faculty of Science.

Pictured top: Dr Pearl Lee, Michelle Ibrahim, Dr James Humberstone, and students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music celebrate the careers day with Parramatta High School students.