Earlier this year we held graduations across the country for our Endeavour graduates. As part of the ceremony, we had particular people of note give speeches on the day – this included Bradley Leech – an Endeavour graduate and Lecturer of Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine. His speech struck such a chord with everyone at the Sydney graduation we wanted to share the speech with you all.
My fellow graduates, congratulations and welcome to the start of an exciting and rewarding career. It is such an honour and somewhat surreal to deliver this year’s graduation speech. Especially as it was merely two years ago that I was sitting in the same seat as you as I graduated from my Bachelor of Health Science in Nutritional Medicine. Having been where you are, I know that the journey you’re about to embark on has countless possibilities in a profession that is constantly growing and evolving. You have the opportunity and ability to immerse yourself in a vast number of careers within complementary medicine. These include but are definitely not limited to; working in clinical practice, conducting research, the development or manufacturing of supplements, being an advisor for healthy eating and health education or policy agenda within the government. Regardless of the area you decide to pursue, the fundamental knowledge, critical judgment and passion for health you have acquired from studying at Endeavour has given you the greatest opportunity for a successful career in complementary medicine.
Now, I must be honest. The vast majority of successes I’ve had and opportunities given to me were as a result of taking a leap of faith and following my heart. My entire purpose in life could be vastly different if it wasn’t for three seemingly insignificant moments in my life. I want to tell you about them and when I do, I want you to look back at the small moments in your life that led you to undertake your chosen degree.
The first event took place many years ago, well before the iPhone. Back when you could walk around Blockbuster looking for the latest ‘Super Size Me’ health documentary. It was at the age of 15, on a lunch break at school reading about health-related subjects at the local TAFE. The only course offered was an Advanced Diploma of Ayurvedic Medicine. Even with having no idea what Ayurveda was, nor how to pronounce the word Ayurveda, I spontaneously enrolled. After graduating as the youngest Ayurvedic practitioner in Australia, I knew right then and there that complementary medicine and helping others wasn’t just my passion, it was so much more than that. It was my purpose in life. It is the reason I’ve already dedicated 10 years of my life to studying and learning everything I can about health and disease. With my purpose in life found, I can only hope that maybe one day I can make a change, I can be the change and improve the health and wellbeing of as many people as I can.
The second event that drastically altered my path happened whilst studying at Endeavour. On a break between class, I saw a small advertisement promoting the Summer Research Program that Endeavour offers. Straight away, a research project looking at the link between digestive health and autoimmunity caught my eye. With the encouragement from my dear friend Bridget Hunt, I applied and to my surprise was accepted to undertake this research project. It was during this project here in Sydney where my passion for autoimmune disease and intestinal permeability really started. This led onto my Honours research and clinical focus on chronic autoimmune conditions.
The last event that significantly altered my career was a simple phone call from my Honours supervisor, Dr Amie Steel while she was in New Zealand. Amie simply told me I should do a PhD. At that point I had never really considered undertaking a PhD, but if there is one thing, I’ve learnt from my research it is that my supervisors are always right. I’m now in the middle of my PhD at ARCCIM UTS, one of the most prestigious centres for complementary medicine research in the Southern Hemisphere.
Looking back, I often think – isn’t life just amazing? From a seemingly insignificant event when I was 15 to finding my purpose in life to where I am now, in the vast cosmos we call academia. These small events have forever altered who I am and what I want to achieve in life.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have moments where I question whether I should quit the life of an academic and travel the world as a backpacker living off the land. However, whenever I question my career choice due to life throwing a curveball or being overwhelmed, I remind myself that not only do I have the obligation, but I also have the privilege to help others in need. That being said, I can’t do this by myself, we can’t do this by ourselves, we need help, we need your help. Your involvement in our profession is the answer to many of the health problems we face.
I would like to provide you with three pieces of advice to thrive in the complementary medicine profession. The first of which is to find your niche. Just look around the room, there are a lot of practitioners, there are even more practitioners around Australia. One of the key reasons I have a successful online clinic where I see interstate and international clients is simply because I found my niche. So, I encourage you to find your niche, promote your niche and become well known for your excellent knowledge in that area. Trust me when I say that patients like to know you’re experienced in their diagnosed disease, even if we treat the person holistically – not just the initial ‘diagnosis’.
The second and perhaps the most vital piece of advice I can give you is to acknowledge and accept your limitations. Let’s be honest, humble and realistic for a moment. The simple fact is, it’s impossible to know everything as humans are vastly complex creatures. One of our fundamental teachings as a health professional is – first, do no harm. Although I can assure you no one in this room would intentionally cause harm, there is another form of harm we need to be aware of. It’s called ego harm. Just think to yourself for a moment, if we are unable to provide the patient with the care they require are we causing harm? Is our ego responsible for preventing optimal patient care? We need to understand and accept our limitations not only in clinical practice but within all areas of healthcare.
This brings me to the final piece of advice around the concept of a multi-modal and integrative approach to health care. Within complementary medicine, the cause of disease is multifactorial and depending on your modality the perceived cause will vary. For instance, if you were to ask a Naturopath what the cause of disease is they would say it stems from the gut. Ask a Nutritionist and they’ll say disease is due to a biochemical imbalance of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. Ask a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, and disease is caused by blood and qi stagnation and finally ask a Myotherapist and they’ll say poor biomechanics and sedentary lifestyle are the causes of disease.
Although I am clearly over-exaggerating in regard to the mono-thinking of disease pathogenesis, it does illustrate how, when and why integrative health care is vital for patient-centred care. As defined by distinguished Professor Jon Adams, integrative medicine is the use of non-conventional practices, technologies, products and approaches to care alongside conventional medical care and treatment. We must work together, not against each other. We must not fight to be a solo practitioner but rather to be a part of a larger referral network where the emphasis is on integrative health care. Want to know how to develop this referral network? Simple. Look to your left, look to your right, look behind you, look in front of you. You’re surrounded by the foundation of your integrative health care network. By simply starting a conversation and discussing how you can work with each other is all that is needed to begin a personalised and integrative approach to healthcare. Take my word, the era of personalised medicine utilising an integrative model of health care is upon us.
Finding your niche, accepting your limitations and working together in an integrative fashion are the three most important factors you can incorporate into this next stage of your career to enable the greatest success. Your degree from Endeavour provides you with such a unique position whereby you have the knowledge, the ability, and opportunity to make a difference. So, use it, not for the fame, the wealth, nor the glory but to reduce morbidity, mortality and to improve the lives of so many in need.
With that, I congratulate you, the Class of 2018 and I look forward to working alongside each and every one you to improve the greater health of humanity. Thank you
Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.
The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees and Honours programs in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, Acupuncture and Myotherapy, a fully online Bachelor of Complementary Medicine and HLT52015 Diploma of Remedial Massage.
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