How did the process of Miss Universe help you to gain skills for what you do today?
In my year as Miss Universe, I had the opportunity to undertake charity work, and instead of doing just Instagram, Snaps, and you know, attending balls, I spend several with a group called Operation Smile doing overseas aid work in cleft lip and palate repairs in children in developing nations. As a result, I met a number of surgeons who became mentors and had an opportunity to develop my skillset with kids; this led to going into paediatric medicine. This also opened the way to doing other charity work within the healthcare field.
I guess that’s what I decided to get out of my year! I knew I didn’t want to be a TV presenter, and I didn’t want to be a model, and I didn’t want to be an influencer. But I was already in medical school, and I did want to be a doctor.
Connor’s Run influence on your medical career?
I was already in medical school when I started working with Connor’s Run. I wanted to be a doctor well before then. I got involved with Connor’s Run and met one of my new mentors, Dr Jordan Hansford, a Paediatric Oncologist at RCH, and he was Connor’s Oncologist. Knowing that I wanted to get into paediatrics, part of doing that is doing research. So I pestered poor Jordan until he took me on. In the end, he said, yes, I’ve got a project, you can come in and work on this massive Excel spreadsheet ( I think it still gives me nightmares), and we’ll see how you go.
This grew into a great working relationship where I’ve been researching with Jordan as part of his team for years now. I fell in love specifically with paediatric Oncology and particularly Neuro-oncology or brain tumours.
I have seen first-hand a lot of unsung heroes in groundbreaking medicine, people that dedicated a whole lot of life, years into this extraordinary work. Helping children live by the hour in some cases!
Well, that’s why I do it as well because I’m blown away by the work. Oncology; is this incredible space at the cutting edge of medical research, and every day, every week and every year, there’s something new coming out that gives hope. You’re also in a space where you can provide care and compassion to families in their greatest time of need and walk with someone on a journey that no one should ever have to walk on. So to be able to say that I’m here for you, to support you, and provide kindness, compassion, and dignity on this journey is humbling.
With this workload and dedication, you use your social platform to encourage balance and healthy living. I am told you have a really interesting take on 15 minutes a day, can you tell us about it?
At the moment I’m studying for a paediatric exam. This exam is my last big exam in my training period, and it’s the biggest scary one, the scariest one that I’ll ever sit. So my routine in the morning means I get up at 5:00 – 5:30 AM, I do an hour to an hour and a half of study, and then I try and do something active for just a little while. And then I go to work.
Some days I managed to get out for like a 15 or 20-minute run. And that’s great. Some days I’m exhausted, and I just think, you know what? Today I’m just going to congratulate myself for getting up and having done some extra study and doing this. Some days I have a day off, and I feel really good, and I’ll say, all right, I’ll go out and run 10K today because I just feel like it, and I enjoy it. And so, for me, it’s been actually really difficult to sort of have that compassion and hold the compassion for myself in not being amazing at everything.
I used to be a competitive swimmer. I was in state and national competitions. I’m very used to being quite athletic and fit, and this year, my physical fitness has taken a backseat to work and study-related things. That’s been hard to reconcile within myself. But I focused in September in the Connor’s Run Your Way Any Day is that something little for myself every day, even if it wasn’t what I would have previously expected to be amazing or something to toot my horn about on social media is still a pretty bloody good job, especially in a pandemic.
The positive affirmation is wonderful, and embracing the I WILL
affirmation is powerful, like Connor did during his yoga therapy class. His was ‘I WILL be Awesome’ – yours can be anything.
What would be some of the ways that you’ve changed your self talk? Can you give an example?
I started journaling a lot; I try and sit down and write as much as I can. I reflect on something I did well that day, why I did it well and what skills this showed. So I might say, for instance, one day I did a great faster run than usual, but I did that well because I had looked after myself by eating well the day before and using positive self-talk on my run. Or it might be that I had a special interaction with a colleague at work or with a patient. Or I could actively listen to someone to take on board their feedback or their concerns or whatever it may be. I’ve found it’s been really helpful. It’s one thing to ask what am I grateful for or what am I good at? But to take that next step and ask, what is it about me that allows me to be good at this? And recognise that. This also brings these aspects to the front of your mind, and you can continue working on them as well.
It became like a self-fulfilling prophecy where I was mindful of how kind or dedicated or how well I communicated. Being mindful of that one day means that the next day I can employ these skills. I can build on them.
What’s something about being Miss Universe that our readers might not know about?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I think there are so many things. I mean, firstly, it’s not as glamorous as what people may believe! The number of times I had to do a clothing change with the towel around me or in the car because I was trying to get from event to event. And of course, you can’t wear the same thing at two events. It’s a bit ridiculous. So now you see, she’s wearing the same track pants now for days in a row!
What’s something our readers might not know about being a paediatrician?
Bubbles are your best friend! Kid crying, bubbles. Suppose the child doesn’t want to be touched to examine -bubbles! Kids getting a drip put in? Bubbles. Just because you can- bubbles! I carried a bubble wand like a stethoscope!
It’s changed with COVID, of course. So I’ve had to resort to stickers and like single-use things. But pre COVID when it was not a faux pas just to blow your secretions bubbles were the best thing ever.
Would you choose a tree house or a cubby house?
This period is really difficult for all of us. And I think the one really important thing is that we have kindness and compassion for ourselves and others. And once you can start being kind and compassionate to yourself, you can start bringing that forward to others.
About Connors Run:
Connor’s Run is the brainchild of the Robert Connor Dawes Foundation.
This year Connor’s Run has raised over 2 million dollars for Children’s Brain Cancer.
In September 2011, 17-year-old Robert Connor Dawes ran from his home in Sandringham to the boatsheds on the Yarra. He’d started his training for the upcoming rowing season early, as he wanted to make the Brighton Grammar 1st VIII. Not loving running, he did the 18.8 km because he was determined to be the best he could be. Little did he know that there was more than fierce determination in his head: there was also a tumour growing. Connor had unknowingly begun his battle.
Two months later, Connor was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma. Major surgery resulted in the loss of movement to his right side, impaired vision and severe short term memory loss. His body was broken, but his mind was not. He was determined to improve and spent hours each day on his physical and mental rehabilitation. The intense radiation and later chemotherapy followed. But throughout all this, Connor never stopped smiling. He stayed positive, philosophical and true to his mantra: “I will be awesome”.
For 16 months, Connor’s brilliant mind, strong body and gentle soul faced off against an ependymoma. Like many others, his brains and brawn gave it all to fight against the poor odds. But on April 20, 2013, Connor’s own battle ended.
Inspired by his spirit of Aeternum Fortis, the RCD Foundation was created as a tribute to him and other brain tumour fighters.
Over the past eight years, Connor’s Run has evolved into Australia’s biggest event for paediatric brain cancer, with thousands of young runners now participating in the event. Many come back year after year, each time generating more funds raised and more attention for the #1 cancer killer in young Australians.
You can donate any time and get involved -see the below links for info: