Healing Country – home grown Indigenous man Dr Justin Cain achieves training position in Vascular Surgery

Justin Cain is a Gomeroi/Yuin man who mostly grew up in the Shoalhaven / Wreck Bay. On his way to achieving his medical degree at the University of Wollongong we were fortunate to host Justin at GMP during his Year 3 longitudinal placement in general practice. It has been no surprise to us to see him go from strength to strength.

Justin is currently working as a surgical trainee in Darwin and was recently awarded a position on the vascular surgical training program. He is the first person from an Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander background to have achieved this feat in Australia. He follows in the footsteps of other Indigenous doctors including Dr Kelvin Kong, a Worimi man who became Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon (an insightful discussion can be heard between Justin and Kelvin on YouTube – see below). In a recent interview on Channel 9 covering his achievement, Justin describes his motivation for medicine as due to both his families’ values and the presence of relatives that were also doctors. Justin told Channel 9, ‘My family have a very strong community service commitment’…and ‘I have a few distant relatives (that became) the first Aboriginal doctors in NSW’.

He has also described the challenges Indigenous people face becoming doctors and caring for their community. In a recent guest speaking role at the Garrmalang Festival Justin described his aim to synthesise traditional Indigenous healing approaches with the Biomedical approaches taught at medical school and in specialist training. He spoke of the trauma of inequity as a doctor being confronted with the stark reality of remote and regional areas having reduced access to medical services and what this triggers for him not only as a doctor but an Indigenous man. On Channel 9 when asked what the negatives he has faced on his journey Justin replied, ‘usually (the) casual racism you can experience in the workplace’ , such as you were ‘only let into medical school because of your background’.

Justin continues to be a trailblazer and just as he was a wonderful student with us, is destined to become both an amazing vascular surgeon and an inspiration to all. We can only hope that he returns home to Yuin country to help heal not only his patients but by his example help heal the intergenerational traumas and racism that still persists in our society. 

By Dr Mark Burgess

If you would like to find out more about Justin go to these links:

Justin speaks with Dr Kelvin Kong – Special podcast episode: Pathway to becoming a surgeon, May 25 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_Lk4mLc9mY

Justin as a guest speaker at the Garrmalang Festival – What does ‘Future Healing’ mean for modern Australia and First Nations people?, June 1 2021, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abcyFGKgB7w

If you would like to understand what is meant by the term ‘Healing Country’ (the theme of this year’s NAIDOC week) to Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people – https://www.naidoc.org.au/get-involved/2021-theme