By Mitchell Clarke
Brooke Tahir is a remarkable young woman who could one day make an enormous difference to the field of medicine.
The mother-of-one spends her time raising her two-year-old daughter while studying biomedical science at Federation University’s Berwick campus and volunteering with a rotary club.
If balancing life as a mother and a university student wasn’t difficult enough, Brooke is also living with a range of serious health issues which affect her day to day life.
“In 2016 I was diagnosed with a then fatal condition called Addison’s disease, then diabetes, then a rare brain tumour and then epilepsy,” Ms Tahir said.
“I now take 11 tablets a day and have to take steroids for the rest of my life. Every time I catch a simple cold, flu or become mentally stressed, it often leads to a hospital stay.”
Despite her medical concerns and growing up disadvantaged, Ms Tahir is a dedicated and passionate student in her second year of a four-year medical degree.
“I want to become one of those doctors that take the time to study individual cases rather than a doctor which just sends a patient off and then sees another one,” she said.
“Having a fairly complex medical history, I’ve gone through times with doctors who said they didn’t know what was wrong with me, they would send me to specialists and give me medicines.
“I just want to make a difference for the future of medicine.”
But juggling the costs associated with motherhood and university costs, the 25-year-old said if she can’t continue to support herself, she wouldn’t be able to continue with her studies.
“I really want to continue to do medicine, but if I can’t financially support myself then I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
On Wednesday 22 May, life got a little easier for Brooke. She was recognised as one of nine students from the Berwick campus to receive a scholarship.
The Foundation Scholarships are available to domestic Higher Education and TAFE students which are funded by donations to the University’s Foundation.
“I’m very grateful. People care that there are people like me who want an education but are also disadvantaged,” she said.
“They know you can do it and they want to help you.”
Ms Tahir says the university has been “awesome” and despite an increase in enrolments, she doesn’t know why there aren’t more students enrolled.
“We have tripled enrolments this year, but once people start seeing the graduates and seeing how good the student support is, I’m sure it will only increase further,” she said.
“From the lecturers to the student advisors, everyone at Federation University has been great. It’s a really nice environment.”
The scholarships are assessed on financial circumstances and commitment to study. This is the second year that Brooke has received financial help.
Looking towards the future, Ms Tahir aims to finish her studies while keeping herself as healthy as possible.
“Every day I have to be cautious to not let things get to be and to minimise my stress. I take everything with a grain of salt.”
While her attitude is remarkable, she hasn’t always been able to find the positive side to life.
“It was so hard in the beginning, I completely shut out myself from the world,” she explained.
“I used to think to myself, ‘I’m going to die so I don’t want to become close to my daughter as I’ll eventually be gone’.
“I can’t afford to think like that. Right now, my cancer is stable so I need to keep that at the forefront of my mind, and I have 11 specialists doing the best they can with my case.”
She hopes that other people in a similar position who might be struggling are able to get the same sort of help that Federation University has provided her.
“Every person has a story and mine is definitely not the worst,” she said.
“I can imagine that there is someone out there who has it worse than me, I’m sure they want to study but may also have faced the same struggle I did.”