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Supporting communities through specialist care: Crystal’s story

Published 2 May, 2023  ·  4-minute read

If not for a sliding door moment in her study journey, Wiradjuri woman and The University of Queensland alum Dr Crystal Williams may not have become a doctor, let alone co-founded the award-winning First Nations Dermatology Clinic.

She thanks her older sister Katherine for finding and faxing her discarded application for an Indigenous Youth Leadership Program (IYLP) Scholarship, which unlocked the mentoring she needed to access a medical pathway.

Wiradjuri woman and The University of Queensland alum Dr Crystal Williams pictured at the First Nations Dermatology Service in Melbourne.

“I had lost confidence in my application but my sister believed in me,” Crystal said.

Crystal is proud that the First Nations Dermatology Clinic at Royal Melbourne Hospital is both a physical and digital space. She also provides a visiting specialist service to the Northern Territory.

The humble project was so successful that Crystal, her co-founder Dr Vanessa Morgan and their team won a Telstra 2021 Brilliant Women in Digital Health Award for their incredible work.

Finding a pathway at UQ

Crystal started tertiary studies at UQ, moved to The University of Western Australia, and then returned to UQ to graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery in 2012.

UQ wasn’t just where her sister was studying, but also a place where she knew she’d find support from both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit and the Goorie Berrimpa student collective.

“My advice for young Indigenous students includes remembering that uni has often good experiences but also hard experiences and is a time when you are forming your identity, being exposed to new ideas and exploring things,” Crystal said.

“However, you will have a lot more control after uni over what path to choose for yourself.”

Providing life-impacting care

Using her digital health service has allowed Crystal to consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients around the country, which she finds incredibly rewarding. She is also excited about advances in dermatology.

“We have seen people with debilitating life-impacting skin conditions impacting on their confidence, their weight, their career progression, and how they have interacted in the community,” she said.

“Seeing that all change with some of the medicines that we are able to prescribe…as a specialist, this is very humbling.”

Advocating for health equity

Crystal’s specialised hospital training in dermatology took her to Darwin (with a 3-month residency in remote East Arnhem Land) as well as Melbourne and Oxford.

On top of operating the First Nations Dermatology Clinic, she is Director of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA).

Crystal is interested in how digital health can overcome barriers to specialist care. She is also committed to disruptive activism and speaking out against racism within medical and training institutions to create safer hospitals for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“I still believe the key towards health equity is with the workforce, which has done so much in recent years to have a First Nations voice across a lot of medical colleges in Australia,” she said.

Crystal commends the work AIDA has already done in this space, and she hopes it continues to progress as a leader in First Nations health.


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