Class of 2006 – Dr Ida Whiteman

Dr Ida Whiteman

 St Paul’s alumna receives prestigious scholarship

St Paul’s Anglican Grammar School class of 2006 alumna, Dr Ida Whiteman was recently awarded the very prestigious ‘Helen and Michael Gannon John Monash Scholarship’ to study a Master of Science in International Health and Tropical Medicine with a focus on managing effective health programs at the University of Oxford in 2017.

The John Monash Scholarships are postgraduate scholarships awarded to outstanding Australians with leadership potential who wish to study at an international institution. They are amongst the most important postgraduate scholarships currently available in Australia.

Ida holds an MBBS with honours (High Distinction) from Monash University, and a Diploma in Child Health from the University of Sydney with High Distinction. She is currently a paediatric doctor at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

Ida is driven by a fundamental belief that every child deserves the chance to be healthy and obtain an education in order to achieve their full potential. During and after medical school she volunteered in Nepal after the earthquake crisis in 2015, Papua New Guinea, Malawi and Zimbabwe with Specialists Without Borders.  The Specialists Without Borders volunteer trip was an education program for medical students and junior doctors and Ida was the only paediatric doctor.

In 2014, Ida worked for a year in the Northern Territory of Australia, where her passion for Indigenous health began. She was shocked to see health outcomes in Indigenous Australians that are similar or worse compared to health outcomes in developing countries overseas and decided to devote her career to Indigenous child health. After completing her Masters Ida aims to work as a paediatrician in the Northern Territory, with an eventual role in guiding public policy in Indigenous affairs to address the root causes of infectious diseases and poor health outcomes in the Indigenous community.

Outside of work, Ida speaks French, has taught flying trapeze to children in New York State, and enjoys singing in choirs.

Attending St Paul’s ten years ago from Year 6 to Year 12, Ida fondly remembers the French exchange program to Montaigu, a small town near Nantes.  “It really allowed me to develop a bigger view of the world at age 16. I learnt what it can mean to speak a second language. I’ve never lost that interest and after completing my Masters I would love to attend language school in France for a few months. As a doctor this skill is highly relevant too, and could assist me to work in French-speaking Africa in the future.”

Ida loved the opportunities that St Paul’s offers to become involved in a huge array of activities. “I was really keen on musical theatre. I sang in the Modern Vocal Group and school choir and really enjoyed the opportunity to perform in the concerts held at the West Gippsland Arts Centre. I joined the Young Writer’s Group in Year 8 which was for people interested in creative writing. I was in the school musicals which was an enormous highlight of my secondary school life. I also got involved in dance aerobics in Years 9, 10, and 11 and we were competitive at state level. At the time, I just did these activities because they made me happy. Now when I look back I can see that they contributed to my self-confidence and pushed me in a way that complimented academics. St Paul’s is a good place to become an all-rounder.”

“The things I remember most are the teachers who had a profound impact on me. Those would be Heather Steenholdt who taught me Years 11 and 12 Chemistry, the late Rob Morrison who taught me Years 7 and 8 Science, and encouraged me to push myself and go into debating, Donna D’arcy who taught me French for years and attended French exchange with a group of us for seven weeks, and Rob Vermay who never gave up on me in Year 12 Maths Methods. St Paul’s seems to attract passionate teachers who genuinely care for their students and want them to succeed.”

Ida loves being a Doctor and she feels that “it is an unusual privilege to gain an insight into people’s most vulnerable moments. It provides a lot of perspective.”

“Working with kids in general is amazing. No matter how sick they are they’re usually focused on when they’ll be able to play their next game of footy, or when their best friend is coming to visit. I think we can learn a lot from children and it’s nice being around them every day.”

“The most important thing is that medicine has provided an opportunity for me to work in areas of need. I’m really passionate about seeing an improvement in Indigenous health outcomes, and I’m just lucky that the career path I chose has given me a skill set that can be useful in that sector.”

Ida is a member of the ‘Academic Honours Society’ at St Paul’s and while a student she was Gilmore Deputy House Captain, School Prefect and Junior School Captain.  “I think that St Paul’s is a school that fosters your development regardless of your strengths.”

“I am thankful to St Paul’s for preparing me for my career. I will, also, never forget the modesty and vision of the then Principal of St Paul’s, Richard Prideaux.”