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Profile: Anthony Copeland (he/him) – Pinnacle alumnus

Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.

I applied for The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program at the end of 2019. I heard about Pinnacle from some of the members of the queer medical student clubs that I belonged to, and they highlighted the program as being a good opportunity for students who have gone through similar journeys to mine. I decided to take the chance and apply, I was granted the scholarship and became a scholar in the 2020 cohort.

Overall, medicine has been very fulfilling as I have been able to work with many queer-identifying patients. I feel honoured to be able to work with LGBTIQ+ patients because there are still identifiable gaps in physical and mental health outcomes between those who identify as LGBTIQ+ and those who do not. Our community are at higher risk of suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and psychological distress compared to the general population. There are still barriers to accessing healthcare including systemic discrimination and inadequate health professional education. This is something I am committed to changing in the future and I feel very fulfilled to be able to bring a queer perspective to my profession.

What did you gain from being part of the Pinnacle scholarship program?

The mentorship program was immensely valuable for me when I was a scholar. Being matched with someone who identifies in a similar way to you, who has walked a similar path to you, who works in a similar profession to you, was so important to my development as a person and in my career. Prior to commencing my university course, I did not know many people in the medical profession, so having a mentor who was so knowledgeable was very important to me and was invaluable to my development. The Pinnacle scholarship program really helped me overcome some of the disadvantages and challenges I faced and helped me to be able to partake in my course with much more confidence and stability than ever before. One of my mentors, who works for the Department of Communities, helped me navigate professional settings and difficult situations that may arise in a clinical workplace. Knowing that there was always someone who I was able to talk to was so reassuring to me as I knew I could always reach out when I needed to talk through any difficult situations.

The clinical component of the course came with a lot of hidden costs that was generously covered by the scholarship program that meant that I did not have to worry about how I would be able to purchase textbooks, study materials, or equipment. The financial component of the scholarship also allowed me to dedicate more of my spare time to pursue further opportunities to develop myself such as leading the Australian Medical Student Association’s Queer project. This would not have been possible without The Pinnacle Foundation’s support.

I also gained a community of friends within my fellow Pinnacle scholar cohort. We have kept in touch and catch up at different Pinnacle events. I am also intending to join the Western Australian Committee this year as I want to remain connected to the Pinnacle family and to be able to give back through giving my time and knowledge by helping Pinnacle grow in Western Australia.

What was your experience with your mentor like?

My experience with my mentors was so helpful and productive. With my Western Australian mentor, we would meet up for a coffee each month and talk through the different challenges that I was navigating, and he would give me sage advice as someone who was external to my university and personal life. I was also assigned a mentor who is a pathologist, and I would receive advice from her regarding the medical studies that I was undertaking and career progression. The fact that I had two mentors meant that I had a wholistic mentor experience as part of my Pinnacle journey and this was an unexpected and incredibly beneficial aspect of the scholarship program. I keep in touch with both of my mentors, and I foresee that I will have a very long relationship with my mentors.

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program?

You have nothing to lose by applying to become a Pinnacle scholar. If you are part of the LGBTIQ+ community and you are studying either at university or TAFE, then you should apply as the application process is easy and the interview part of the process is more of a conversation than an interrogation – the panel members just want to get to know you better. You have so much to gain by being matched with a mentor who has walked the path before you, who has similar intersectional factors as you, someone who is willing and happy to share their wisdom and knowledge with you. If you are successful in your application and become a scholar, then I would encourage you to get involved by attending Pinnacle events and try and put yourself out there as you get to meet some amazing people and develop a strong network of people who will champion you on your journey.

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