Chastina Heck – Journey into Pharmacy

Chastina Heck is a Nywaigi Mamu Bidjara woman working as a clinical pharmacist at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane. Chastina was born in Barcaldine and conducted her schooling in Toowoomba as she moved there when she was about three years old.

Here is her story:

“I moved from Toowoomba to Brisbane for university as University of Queensland (UQ) was one of the only places I could study Pharmacy at the time (apart from Townsville).” Said Chastina. “There are many other Pharmacy Schools now to choose from.”

“I hadn’t always wanted to be a pharmacist but thought it was pretty awesome that a pharmacist could play such an important role in health care provision without the need to be OK with blood and guts like a nurse or doctor would,” said Chastina. “I’m not a big fan of needles either, for the record.”

“When I was at school, I had also considered environmental engineering and also thought perhaps a professional actor or professional dancer might be my thing,” said Chastina. “Last minute before QTAC applications were due, I decided to change to pharmacy after contracting chickenpox that the local pharmacist diagnosed.”

“I gained entry into a Bachelor of Pharmacy through the alternative entry program that UQ had for those students who didn’t meet entry requirements through the usual means,” said Chastina. “I really struggled through the first year of my degree and almost quit after feeling as though I didn’t fit in.  It seemed as though everyone else had a Daddy who was a doctor or a Mummy who was a pharmacist – certainly no other Murris!”

“But then I allowed the support of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Students Unit to help me along with things,” Chastina explains.

“After being awarded a scholarship through the Pharmacy Guild, I knew that I belonged and deserved to be studying alongside my fellow students,” said Chastina. “It was a sign that other people had faith in my abilities, and as a result of the financial support to buy textbooks and a new computer, my grades improved out of sight. Emotionally, I was also in a better place.”

“I undertook my pre-registration training at the Mater Hospital and pretty much never left,” said Chastina. “I’ve enjoyed being a strong advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients of the hospital: ensuring no disadvantage with Close the Gap medicine payments; encouraging liaison with our local Aboriginal Medical Service; highlighting issues regarding medicine use from all of our rural and remote patients we look after, just to name a few things.”

“I love working as part of a big team – often alongside fellow allied health professionals,” said Chastina. “I love being a pharmacist in the hospital and have found that there is so much room for improvement in care in so many shapes and forms. Of course, it doesn’t mean things aren’t good. But why settle for good when things could be the best.”