#135 IWD Member profile: Dr Marie Bismark


4 March 2020

We are celebrating the achievements of AMA Victoria’s female members to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual:

An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.  

AMA Victoria strongly supports a gender equal world and medical profession. In our International Women’s Day profile series, we’re introducing you to some of our dedicated current and future medical leaders.

Introducing: Dr Marie Bismark

What is your current role in medicine?

My work weaves back and forth across multiple roles in medicine: junior and senior, public and private, clinical and research. I’m a psychiatry registrar with Melbourne Health, a director of New Zealand’s fastest growing aged care provider, a law lecturer at Melbourne University, and the head of a public health research team. The work is varied and richly rewarding. Each of my roles gives me a deeper understanding of the health and wellbeing of patients, practitioners, and communities. 

Why did you choose to study medicine?

When I finished high school I couldn’t decide between law and medicine, so I enrolled for both degrees. I thought it would quickly become clear which one I wanted to do. But here I am 20 years later, working as a medical practitioner and legal academic, and I still haven’t been able to choose between them!

What is the best part about your work?

The most rewarding part of my work in psychiatry is being able to sit with people during some of the hardest days of their lives; to hear their hopes and fears and dreams; and help them find a path back towards the life they want to live. I also love mentoring and collaborating with other doctors and researchers. It gives me so much joy to see others find their passion and to see people making a difference in the world. 

What is the hardest part about your work?

Not having enough hours in the day to say, “Yes“ to everything I would like to be able to.

If you were Health Minister for a day, what changes would you make to the health system?

My first priority would be legislation banning the sale of cigarettes. It is beyond me that a product that kills half of its consumers when used as intended can be legally sold, rather than grounds for manslaughter charges. I would also advocate for reduced income inequalities, affordable housing, sustainable local food, parenting support, reproductive rights and climate reform. Many of the biggest improvements in health happen outside of the acute healthcare system.

Do you have any advice for others pursuing a career in medicine?

I think some of the most rewarding careers are found at the intersection of two passions. Do you adore general practice and wild places? You can be an Antarctica doctor like Dr Kate Kloza. Are you torn between medicine and music? You can create music for healing like Dr Cath Crock. Are you gifted in paediatric surgery and lactation consulting? You can specialise in supporting breastfeeding in babies with airway disorders like Dr Nikki Mills. 

Be willing to take a path less travelled. Look for colleagues who bring out the best in you. Do more of what you love.

What do you enjoy doing away from medicine?

My 2019 New Year’s resolution was to do a dawn yoga class every weekday. The practice of spending an hour on the mat each morning has been transformative. I also love hanging out with my three teenage children, planning sailing adventures with my husband and talking about books and life with my book club.

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