Dr Lea Foo has worked in public and private health organisations since 2003, across a number of health networks, outpatient, inpatient and specialist alcohol and other drug treatment settings across Australia and New Zealand. She has has been involved in teaching post graduate and undergraduate students in psychiatry and has published and reviewed articles in peer-reviewed journals. Today, she shares on STEM education in Medicine with a focus on her work with supporting people facing addiction.

Please share about your current work and what you like about it?
I currently work as an Addiction Psychiatrist alongside other clinicians to provide treatment for people with chemical addictions. Supporting people in their recovery journeys and providing them opportunities for change is rewarding. Witnessing individuals and families overcome extreme adversity is humbling. Working as part of a multi-disciplinary team with a holistic approach is satisfying. 

What did you study and if you could do it again would you still choose the same course?
I studied Medicine, then specialised to become a Psychiatrist and then an Addiction Psychiatrist. Looking back on my career pathway, Addiction Psychiatry was not something I specifically set out to pursue. Instead it was a path I found myself on, initially stumbling upon Psychiatry as a junior doctor, and realising that I was drawn to this area of medicine because it suited my interests and aptitude. The path to Addiction Psychiatry unfolded as I sought to equip myself with skills and knowledge that would enable me to better serve my patients; and as opportunities arose to work in the field. It is difficult for me to imagine doing anything else.

You have worked in remote communities and now are working overseas – why did you choose this career pathway that is involved with disadvantaged groups?
I think that I am ‘wired’ to care for disadvantaged and marginalised groups. I would consider myself a committed Christian with a Judeo-Christian worldview – caring for such communities is a core value within this worldview. As a health care professional, I resonate with the need to provide care for individuals and communities that do not have access to equitable health care. I would find it hard not to be working in a context that enables me to personally be involved in this.  

What kind of skill have helped you the most in your career?

The willingness to listen and to learn are skills that have helped me most in my career.

STEM Education in developing nations like (picture from World Economic forum)

Education in developing nations comes with its challenges and many people are unaware of the disadvantage these communities face.
How do you think we can raise up the next generation to be mindful of the needs of our neighbours from developing nations and what STEAM skills do you think will be the most useful for them?

In a world that is increasingly pre-occupied with one-self,  there is a danger that communities reinforce the focus on meeting personal needs at the expense of the needs of others.  Social media and the “echo chamber” phenomena can magnify this. The benefit of living in the Information Age is that we can educate ourselves on the needs of communities and societies outside our own. If we hold the view that people have no choice over the genes they were endowed with, or the families and communities they were born into,  those of us who have found ourselves in a position of privilege, would recognise that this position has in effect been gifted to us. A sense of gratitude should motivate us to optimise the opportunities we have received, and consider how we can “pay forward” what has been given to us.
Helping the next generation to understand the privileges they have as responsibilities and educating them on the needs of developing countries will enable them to be mindful of their neighbours.
In a rapidly changing world, that requires a critical mind, a willingness to take calculated risks, and to innovate, all the STEM skills would be valuable. Science and mathematics discipline young minds to be analytical and logical in evaluating problems and developing solutions. Technology and engineering enable creativity and innovation.

Discovering without borders is reaching the nations for STEAM skills and we have developed new topics to help children learn. 
Which topic would interest you the most and why?

Our eyes, the window to our brains would interest me … as a Psychiatrist, I am fascinated by the human mind!

Our Eyes – the window to our brain – Topic 11 DWB

Thank you Dr Lea Foo for showing us how medicine has developed a passion for you to pursue Addiction Psychiatry! Your work with disadvantaged and remote communities is especially interesting and inspiring as you pay forward the gifts and resources you have been given. In DWB we focus a great deal on giving and providing equal access to all children who want to learn and are actively investing in refugee communities and low socio economic societies. We also emphasise the sciences of biology with topics covering the Brain, Eye and Heart with fun engaging case studies for children keen to develop an interest in these fields.

For more information visit: www.d-w-b.org or contact@d-w-b.org
As a Social Enterprise we are supporting developing nations and disadvantaged communities to access our resources. Do contact us directly at yen@d-w-b.org if you have a group of people who would benefit from using our resources.