Defying the Stereotype
Not your typical looking doctor, Sarah Gray brings a splash of colour to the dreary hospital back drop, with streaks of red in her hair and bursts of colour from the tattoos visible everywhere except her face.
Sarah describes herself as an art collector, with tattoos covering more than 90% of her body. She is undoubtedly changing perceptions in the medical world which is traditionally a conservative profession.
”I had one particular patient that came in very unwell. I cared for him for a long time until he went home for palliative care. He was a person of much older vintage that traditionally doesn't like tattoos. Towards the end, he really thanked me for being this kind of colourful light in his life,” she said.
“When he actually passed away, his family sent me a card and some flowers and just said thank you so much for really changing his outlook in life and being a positive influence on him. So that, I think, has been the biggest moment that's stuck with me so far.”
Sarah says younger patients are sometimes more willing to talk to her honestly about why they are there.
“The younger patients that come in and might be a bit more scared to open up to some of the doctors, have been more willing to open up and talk to me about why they're there,” she said.
Initially Sarah tried to cover up her tattoos as she was going through the interview process to study medicine, but as she’s progressed, she realised they are part of who she is.
“I became more aware that it's not really so much about what you look like, as who you are as a person so I stopped trying to cover up as much,” she said.
Although she has experienced nothing but support from her colleagues and the Royal Adelaide Hospital, Sarah is aware the stereotypes still exist and she is happy to disprove them all.
“That's the only thing that can be a little bit frustrating, where people categorise you into a certain box based on your appearance. That's probably the one thing that I'm trying to really advocate for; you shouldn't stereotype people based on how they look,” she said.
Growing up on the Yorke Peninsular, Sarah is following in the footsteps of her father who works a country GP.
“Seeing dad as such an active member of the community, with what he did and how he was able to give back in that aspect, I always looked up to him,” she said.
Sarah is also co-owner of a tattoo parlour in Adelaide called The Grim Raptor. One aspect of the business of which she is especially proud is its work on the Survivors Ink campaign. The studio does free realistic nipple tattooing for women and men who have overcome breast cancer or had mastectomy breast reconstructions.
Sarah started her specialisation in surgery this year, aiming to become an orthopaedic surgeon at the end of her training.