Old Girl Dr Melanie Gibson-Helm was welcomed back to Woodford House this week to launch the 2017 Scholarship Academy.
Melanie is an academic at Australia’s Monash University in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.
Having completed a PhD in 2015, and after receiving a prestigious fellowship from the Australian Government, Melanie now designs and leads research studies that aim to improve health care for women.
Melanie completed a double degree in Science and Commerce and Administration, and an Honours degree in Cell and Molecular Bioscience at Victoria University in Wellington.
While she has always been interested in science, it wasn’t until she did a Masters at Monash University that she discovered a real passion for women’s health care.
“I went to some lectures about public health, global health and epidemiology -patterns of disease and disease risk factors. It was the first time I really thought about scientific research taking place outside the lab and concerning the world and society we interact with every day,” Melanie says.
This was a career-changer for Melanie who decided to turn her research attention towards health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women of refugee background and women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
“Now I work on projects I am passionate about. I work with inspiring people around the world, I travel internationally to talk about my results and I am invited to contribute to the policies that recommend how healthcare should be provided.”
As a person of faith, Melanie says it was the Woodford House Chaplain who inspired her to pursue a career in science.
“Mr Fletcher was the Chaplain when I started at Woodford House, and he was also one of the Chemistry teachers. I learned from him that it is totally compatible to be a person of faith and a scientist at the same time.”
Her advice to the younger girls was to equip themselves with the skills and qualifications that will lead them towards a job they will love.
“You spend a lot of your life working so do something that is more than just a job to you. There are so many careers out there that you can’t even imagine exist. Keep an open mind, consider all the options and don’t be afraid to change the path you are on.”
She encouraged the girls to surround themselves by people who they respect, who inspire them, who they can be silly with and laugh with, and who support them to grow into someone they are proud of being.
The Woodford House Scholarship Academy is aimed at strengthening the girls’ chances of NZQA Scholarship. The Scholarship Academy creates links with academics in our community who support our scholarship candidates through presentations, workshops and advice. The Academy also supports staff with resources to run effective scholarship programmes.