Dr Tim Smith and Dr Angela La Macchia’s Commitment to Indigenous Healthcare

Showcasing excellence, diversity, and inclusivity at Peninsula Health, Dr Timothy Smith and Dr Angela La Macchia are two of nine Indigenous fellows across the whole of Australia contributing to improved health care outcomes.

Dr Smith, a proud Taungurung man who grew up on Bunurong land, and Dr La Macchia, a proud Gumbaynggirr woman from Northern New South Wales, are Emergency Medicine physicians working within Frankston Hospital’s Emergency Department.  

“Indigenous doctors are a stark minority in healthcare,” says Dr Smith.

“I am extremely humbled to be a part of this small group of incredible people, and still cannot believe how lucky I am to be working alongside Dr Angela La Macchia at Peninsula Health,” he adds.

Having recently completed his fellowship in Emergency Medicine at the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Smith was awarded a hand painted and framed fellowship stethoscope, a unique take on the standard stethoscope that medical students receive when graduating medical school, at a special gala dinner organised by the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA).

“It was one of the greatest highlights of my life and signified all the hard work I had done to achieve the feat of becoming an Emergency Medicine physician,” shares Dr Smith.

“AIDA does great work fostering and encouraging more doctors into the workforce to improve Australian healthcare in many domains,” he adds.

As emergency physicians with an Indigenous background, Dr Smith and Dr La Macchia understand the importance of Indigenous representation within healthcare.

“If you are an Indigenous patient, you’re going to have a good interaction with an Indigenous doctor,” says Dr La Macchia. “We want to ensure a safe person and space for these patients because we know that it leads to better outcomes.”

“It inherently allows a patient to have a more culturally supportive patient experience that extends through their whole system journey,” explains Dr Smith. “As Indigenous specialists, we’re more likely to look out for those patients that come through and are able to take them aside to support their special needs culturally.”

Discussing initiatives for culturally competent care, both doctors see the need for increased visibility and are aiming to be more present and approachable, recognising the importance of creating an environment where colleagues and patients feel comfortable seeking their guidance.

“There’s a lot of different things we could do to improve representation,” says Dr La Macchia. “One is visibility, there’s also recruitment and advocacy, which both of us step outside of our roles at Peninsula Health and do on a larger scale.”

As a member of the Indigenous Health Committee at the College of Emergency Medicine, Dr La Macchia is committed to driving policy changes and supporting future generations of Indigenous healthcare professionals.

As Frankston Hospital undergoes its major redevelopment, opportunities for Indigenous healthcare professionals will increase, and with it an increase in cultural representation and symbols.  

“It’s going to be very interesting to see how the hospital redevelopment accommodates our spaces,” says Dr Smith. “In the next few years, I want to markedly improve and standardise our critical care capabilities in this hospital through equipment accusation, system redesign and upskilling of staff.”

As Dr Smith and Dr Angela La Macchia continue to shape the future of healthcare at Peninsula Health, their vision for a more culturally competent and inclusive system stands as a testament to the positive impact that Indigenous representation can have. We are delighted to have such dedicated healthcare professionals, who have achieved so much, committed to improving healthcare outcomes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities on the Mornington Peninsula.