Profile with Evelyn Chan

Evelyn Chan (Victoria & Hertford 2011) is a resident doctor at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Having finished her studies at Oxford in 2013, she has moved back to her hometown of Melbourne, Australia to continue her medical career. In her free time, she practices and coaches artistic gymnastics. She holds an MSc in Medical Anthropology and an MSc in Public Health Research from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery from Monash University.

Rhodes Project: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Evelyn Chan: I actually had a list of five to ten professions, including being a marine biologist, a detective, an archeologist, a scientist and a writer. My plan was to do one each day of the week and keep alternating each day, so that I would only do the same job one day a week or once every fortnight to keep things interesting. I wish it was that easy!

Rhodes Project: What did you find most surprising about Oxford?

Evelyn Chan: The juxtaposition between its dreamy other-worldly beauty and its fast-paced intellectually thriving community. There was a lot of interdisciplinary research and many fascinating ideas and speakers.

Rhodes Project: How did you first become interested in medicine?

Evelyn Chan: I have a younger brother with severe autism, so I became interested in pediatrics and child health through that. We’re nine years apart, so I did a lot of caring for him during my teenage years. I realized that quality information and being able to link people to services and give family support made all the difference to families who were living with a disability.

Rhodes Project: You’ve done a lot of volunteer work in different areas of medicine. Can you tell me about a favorite past project?

Evelyn Chan: I really enjoyed working in northern Thailand – I was working with a solo doctor in the border of Myanmar, just walking from village to village delivering medical services. I found it really interesting seeing a different side of medicine, its challenges and its potential and effects even on a small scale.

Rhodes Project: What is the most important global health issue that medical students don’t learn about?

Evelyn Chan: I think the sociology of global health is a neglected issue which permeates all global health problems. Although there have been major biomedical advances, the access and uptake of these depends a lot on social practices, cultural beliefs, inequalities between men and women, rich and poor, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and the use of human resources. These are fundamental areas to address which are often forgotten.

Rhodes Project: Do you have any role models in your field?

Evelyn Chan: I definitely look up to Atul Gawande who is an American surgeon who is very interested in systems management and safety. And also Fred Hollows, for very simple medical inventions and training up locals, which has made so much difference in people’s lives.

Rhodes Project: Do you think it’s important to have female role models or mentors?

Evelyn Chan: I definitely do. Dame Stephanie Shirley is an inspiring businesswoman and philanthropist who I was lucky enough to meet in Oxford. She is genuinely warm, passionate and so engaging. Her son was also autistic, and reading her biography was very moving.

Rhodes Project: What was your favorite volunteer work or extracurricular activity that you’ve been involved with?

Evelyn Chan: Artistic gymnastics. I started doing gymnastics when I was about eight years old, and been doing that and coaching for the past 15 years. Coaching is so rewarding because you see kids grow more confident in themselves and develop skills they never thought they could!

Rhodes Project: If you could travel anywhere in the world for 6 months where would it be?

Evelyn Chan: At the moment I would say America, because I’ve never been there before and I find the culture and history really fascinating. That was probably inspired by being around a lot of American Rhodes Scholars. Both coasts sound really appealing, but I have some friends I would particularly love to visit on the East Coast.

Rhodes Project: What are you looking forward to in the next three years?

Evelyn Chan: I’m really looking forward to trying to find an area of interest that I can develop my skills and find a niche that I am very passionate about. I’m particularly interested in combining medical anthropology and public health, and hopefully start working towards a public policy type role. 

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