From soldier to doctor – the many faces of one career

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Like many people completing high school, Elliot Bowden was uncertain about taking the first steps on his career path. He had aspired to become a professional athlete, playing volleyball at an elite level. But Elliot – now aged 24 – also considered gaining a qualification in plumbing. His experience is not unusual; so many high school graduates can be overwhelmed by their career choices. Eventually he settled on the Australian Defence Force Gap Year program.

Taking careers for a test spin

It was an opportunity to explore a range of courses in the military. ‘My graduation as Private Bowden gave me a great sense of personal achievement and pride to be part of my country’s professional Defence Force,’ Elliot says. Being physically and mentally challenged made Elliot aware of just how much he was capable of. ‘I believed I should aspire to pathways and roles with greater potential for leadership opportunities,’ he explains. In 2012 he enrolled in an undergraduate degree in health at La Trobe’s regional health school in Bendigo.

Finding the right path through experience

But it wasn’t until 2013 that a strong career desire emerged. After applying for volunteering opportunities with International Volunteers HQ and gaining experience working in a Tibetan orphanage, his perspective sharpened. ‘I immersed myself in the culture, living with and perhaps inadvisably, eating with the children at the orphanage. My resulting ill health provided me with a patient’s perspective of the Nepali health care system,’ Elliot explains. It was this first-hand experience of a developing nation’s health care system that made him think critically about the economic requirements involved in delivering health care on a large scale.

He’s since volunteered in Romania and also spent a month in Mexico studying public health policy concepts. Once again, he had first-hand exposure to a foreign medical system when in Mexico he suffered from a collapsed lung. ‘After spending over a week in hospital I returned to the program with a much greater appreciation of the patient-centered model of practice used in Australia,’ Elliot says. The experience gave him renewed drive to make a difference in the field of global medicine.

'I immersed myself in the culture, living with and perhaps inadvisably, eating with the children at the orphanage. My resulting ill health provided me with a patient’s perspective of the Nepali health care system.'

Elliot Bowden,
Deakin University student

Choosing a career direction

After completing his undergraduate studies, Elliot elected to further his study and applied for a scholarship to complete the Bachelor of Medicine/Surgery at Deakin University. ‘I pursued this after undergraduate study as I wanted a career which could continue to grow without any ceilings,’ Elliot says. Applying for a scholarship enabled him to give his studies the attention they deserved and ‘have a degree of security’. There’s a long road ahead, with an eventual entry into the industry as an intern, followed by vocational training and work overseas, he hopes. ‘I wanted to challenge myself. This course gives me wider scope to make a greater impact,’ Elliot concludes.

Learn more about where a scholarship can take you at Deakin University.

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