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Kelsi Nichols

Captain Kelsi Nichols is a Medical Officer (doctor) at Linton Army Camp in Palmerston North.

Dr Kelsi Nichols with a patientWhat do you do on an average day? 
Just like a normal GP, I have booked appointments with our soldiers.  We see a mixture of medical, gynaecological, minor surgical and emergency problems (mostly sports injuries).  The four doctors in the practice share duties for a walk-in clinic in the morning called Sick Parade, so for one-two mornings a week I don’t have any booked patients so I can be available to answer questions or review patients that the nurses or medics have seen.  Three days a week I get an hour and a half booked out to do some exercise with the rest of the medical unit.  Sometimes I get taken out of the practice to go on a course or a trip, either a field exercise in NZ or an operation overseas.  On those trips it’s kind of like M*A*S*H.

What did you study at school? And after high school? 
At high school I did biology, chemistry, maths, classics (more interesting than English) and drama.  Physics is also useful if you want to get into medicine.  My first year of Uni was the pre-med year. In Auckland you can choose from two different pathways into med - one is more science/physics based and one has no physics and more population health/social studies type subjects.  After that it’s another five years of med school

What would you like to share with young women who are thinking about their career choices right now?
It’s hard to know what the options are for careers when you’re still in high school.  I thought medicine was the only way to learn about the human body but there are heaps of research and allied health careers that provide similar pathways.  Go to career expos and try and do visits to places that interest you and talk to people who work there, you might be surprised.

What are some of your career/study highlights so far? 

  • Providing health support to the army engineers in Vanuatu after the cyclone in March 2015. 
  • The first time I explained to a patient what was going on with their health and they had a light bulb moment and thanked me profusely for giving them answers.

Why do you believe engaging in STEM – whether it’s working in the field, studying it or just educating one’s self around the issues – is important to New Zealand?
As a small nation we have to rely on ingenuity and fresh thinking to keep up with the other big players on the global field.  It’s important to never stop asking questions.

Why is it important to have more women working in STEM? 
Women bring a different perspective to men, and contribute to a balanced approach, which is the best way to achieve anything!  We need to break down the institutional and cultural barriers for women in this environment and fulfil our potential, to help keep NZ on the front foot.

Captain Kelsi Nichols is a Medical Officer (doctor) at Linton Army Camp in Palmerston North.

This profile is part of our series of girls and women in STEM. 
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