Jasmina Kevric, Age: 30
Born in the former Yugoslavia, moved to Australia at age 14
Doctor, Speaker, Public Health Advocate in Melbourne.

Dr Jasmina Kevric and her family fled war-torn Bosnia 16 years ago and arrived in Australia with no possessions and knowing no English. Watching doctors in the field helping other refugees, Jasmina knew then she wanted to become a surgeon, and embarked on a lifelong journey of discovery via a medical degree, public health initiatives, community work and mentoring. At age 18, she added her voice to a book called No place like home: Australian stories by young writers aged 8-21.

Jasmina was awarded Australia’s Young Achiever award in the Greater Dandenong region in 2009 for her work in motivating and educating youth refugees. She also volunteers for non-profit organisations in places such as Burma, India and rural Australia, raising awareness of global health issues.

The Newcomer talks to this hardworking and inspiring young doctor about her experiences after she moved to Australia and life in medicine.

Q. What inspired you to become a doctor?

I grew up Bosnia and Herzegovina which went through a period of civil war. Early in my life, I was exposed to trauma and suffering, which developed my resilience and courage to do what is required
of me. I had many moments where I saw the impact that doctors had on patients’ lives and wanted to be someone who could improve another person’s life.

During the war, I felt I missed out on a proper education. I didn’t go to school until I was about 10 years old. When I came to Australia all I wanted to do was learn. I threw myself into the unknown and picked up as much as my mind could possibly take. It was an exhilarating ride.

When I recognised the need to provide other refugees with a voice, I found other inspiring people with similar backgrounds and set out to improve current systems and cultures. It is surprising how much a person is able to learn provided they are simply passionate and committed to their cause.

Jasmina Kevric Dr Jasmina Kevric performing a C-section in Makunda Hospital, India. Image credit: Makunda Hospital

Q. What support did you get from the Australian community for your endeavours while growing up, and how do you think things have changed (for better or worse) with support for refugees and new immigrants?

I was very fortunate in that I attended a school that was very supportive of students from diverse backgrounds. I had amazing teachers who genuinely wanted me to achieve my goals. I also grew up with other young people who had similar experiences so it made me feel right at home. My family and I received Australian citizenship very quickly and that made it incredibly easy to integrate. I set out to be the best I can be and give back to a country that had allowed me to restart my life again.

Nowadays, I feel government schools are less funded and less able to motivate and inspire students from difficult backgrounds to achieve their potential an area that certainly requires more attention.

Q. What resistance did you come across when you tried to do what seemed impossible?

First impressions are very important as they say and that can work against us. In my case simply being a ‘refugee’ placed the image of someone who was uneducated and lost in a new world. It was difficult to not only change people’s minds, but also teach myself new skills.

Early on when I expressed my desire to achieve a significant goal I was told to ‘be realistic’. That was the theme when I was growing up. However, that also became my most important reference because it made me what I am today.

Early on when I expressed my desire to achieve a significant goal I was told to ‘be realistic’. That was the theme when I was growing up. However, that also became my most important reference because it made me what I am today.

While doing medicine, I again felt a bit like an outsider. My experiences were so different to those around me and I wasn’t surrounded by people who shared similar upbringing. It took a while to adapt to this new environment.

Luckily, I came across people who were understanding and wanted to know my story. Today they are my closest friends.

Q. What’s the biggest piece of advice you could give migrants starting over in a new country?

I would tell them the truth: It will not be easy. You will encounter racism and obstacles which will be new to you. If you’re female it will be even harder.

People will doubt you, not welcome you and mistreat you. You will wish you had stayed in the world which you had known previously. But one day you will meet someone whose kind words will inspire you to keep going.

You will achieve your first goal and that will drive you to do more. Every day will become easier as you learn about your new environment.

Until one day you see yourself in another and extend a helping hand. In that moment, there will be no going back. You will use your resilience, courage, and determination to survive, and become that which you had always dreamed of. That sense of achievement will be an endless inspiration for you to make this world a better place. All you have to do is keep going.

Every day is an opportunity to learn. Speak to as many people as you can and learn the language well. Focus on your goals and give them your 100%. Seek support from people who want to see you achieve, and maintain contact with them. The most important is to keep going no matter what obstacles you encounter.

Follow Jasmina on Twitter @@DocJasmina

Contributing writer
Dr. Louise Teo is a medical doctor and writer from Melbourne who has worked with many inspirational healthcare professionals from immigrant backgrounds. She writes at The Medical StartUp which shares inspiring stories of medical creativity and entrepreneurship. You can find her on Facebook at The Medical Startup