Keeping it in the family: mother and daughter two peas in a pod

9 Dec 2021

Naomi Burgess didn’t need to look far for a role model, as she prepares to receive her degree from UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and begin life as an occupational therapist.

Her mother, Dr Andrea Burgess –  who works with children with Cerebral Palsy(CP) at the Faculty of Medicine’s Child Health Research Centre – was awarded her PhD in occupational therapy from UQ in January this year.

Ms Burgess said it wasn’t always her intention to follow in her mother’s footsteps.

“Seeing the work Mum does with children with CP, which has been her research area, influenced my interests,” Ms Burgess said.

“I originally wanted to do medicine, but I had always known what occupational therapy was because Mum had done it.”

She said her studies had brought the pair even closer.

“I like to say that I didn’t choose it because of Mum, but we just have naturally very similar personalities, so we both were drawn to it.

“Occupational therapy does really shape what you think more than what you do, so I do feel like I’ve gotten to know Mum more.”

Dr Burgess said occupational therapy was a holistic field with a blend of psychology and health and rehabilitation, which appealed to them both.

“I think knowing that you want to work with people is the big driving factor for me, and that is what I said to Naomi, you’ll enjoy any of the allied health professions because you’d be working with people,” she said.

“It’s so special for the two of us to share this interest.”

During her studies, Ms Burgess completed a number of placements, including a stint in regional Romania with Challenges Abroad, in Cherbourg with Towards Rural and Outback Health Professionals in Queensland, as well as placements at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital burns unit, and the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health.

She said she was also keen to follow her mother’s lead and take up research, once she discovered what she was most passionate about.

“Seeing Mum do research here has definitely encouraged me because I can see the impact the work she is doing has, and how it influences what we are taught at university.”

But first, a job in Dalby beckons.

“I’ve always wanted to go regional or rural and it’s with an organisation called Bush Kids who do early intervention for kids out in the community, so I’m so excited.”

And whatever comes next, she has a role model and a source of advice close at hand.

“The values that come with studying occupational therapy definitely come from a variety of places, but the way Mum lives her life and the values she lives with are definitely influenced by the field and I didn’t realise that until I started studying it.

“Occupational therapy makes us better people in a way, because it’s all about caring for others and being empathetic.

“I feel like I’ve had a bit of a glimpse of how that helps you live your life, as well as helping other people.”