Figuring out what you want do after graduating from High School can be a confusing time. For Anna, this was definitely the case. With a keen interest in health and sciences, she was still unsure of the path she wanted to take. Now as a paediatric sleep scientist, university teacher and a mum she is doing something different everyday, keeping her life very interesting. Anna has kindly offered to share her journey from finishing school, completing a PhD to having a family.
Can you briefly explain your memories of Oakleigh Grammar? Favourite subjects, favourite part of the School, favourite sport or hobby at the time?
So many great memories! I think we felt like a family because of the small class sizes. Shared many laughs throughout the years and have made life-long friends (and spouse!). I would say some of the best memories were on camp! We looked forward to this every year. Favourite subjects were Biology and Chemistry. I have to admit I wasn’t very “sporty” but if I had to pick favourite sport, it would be cross-country running. Favourite hobby was painting and drawing.
What did you do once finishing at Oakleigh Grammar? What were you hoping to do?
So I really didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career upon finishing school, I knew I loved the sciences and health (particularly biology) but wasn’t sure what path to take. I applied for a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences at Monash University. At the conclusion of this I was still unsure about what to do and went on to complete an Honours Degree in Public Health. I then stumbled across an ad to work as a paediatrist sleep scientist, I applied (not knowing much about the role to be honest) but fell in love with this field! Six months later I embarked on a PhD in Sleep Medicine which was challenging but also taught me so much. I published a number of papers and even a book chapter throughout this period. Since having a family however I decided research would be difficult to keep up so I have just remained in a clinical role, which I absolutely still love! During my Honours year I also started some teaching work in the field of Public Health for medical students at university. I also fell in love with this and still have sessional work with the university 10 years later teaching into various degrees including Bachelor of Biomedical Science and Bachelor of Health Sciences (tutorials and some lecturing).
What is the most rewarding thing about your career thus far?
For my sleep scientist role I would say I absolutely love working with the kids and their families. I love when families arrive at the hospital worried about how it will all go and we can reassure them, and then actually turn the sleep study into a fun and positive experience! Parents are often gobsmacked about how well it goes! The other part of my role is to analyse these sleep studies and write up the reports for our sleep doctors which form part of the diagnosis for these patients. Every child and study is different and we see patients from newborn to teenagehood, there’s lots of variety and it keeps it very interesting. I also find the teaching at university rewarding. I love getting to know a new cohort/s of students every year and feeling like you’ve imparted some wisdom (even if it feel like it’s only a little bit at times.)
Whilst having its rewards, what would you say the challenges of the role are?
Being a paediatric sleep scientist definitely has its challenges, particularly when working with the younger age group such as the one and two year olds, but I think this is also a positive as it makes it interesting and keeps you on your toes!
I would have to say that the most challenging thing about teaching at university these days is keeping students engaged, ten years ago it was much easier done! It’s much trickier now when every student has a laptop and smartphone, and they feel like they’re “a click away” from all the answers.
Would your younger self have predicted the career/life that you have now?
Nope, not even close!
What is one piece of advice you would tell your younger self if you could?
Not to stress about “knowing” what career path I should take as a High School student. I was often jealous of people who knew exactly what they wanted to do, but the truth is you need to go out and experience the world and different work environments before you know what is right for you! Also, to give anything a go even if it seems scary or out of your depth. I was “pushed” into teaching the first year medical students and from the very first class it was so different to what I thought it would be and I just loved it, it was a big surprise!
You have very much stayed apart of the Oakleigh Grammar Community, what do you feel the benefit of this is for yourself/your children who now attend the School?
As I mentioned before, I have such fond memories of the school and still maintain very close friendships with several classmates of mine. I loved the “community feel” and my hope is for my boys to have a similar positive experience.