Byron Bay’s Jett Osborne followed his passion for science across the Indo-Pacific region

New Colombo Plan
Friday, September 11, 2020 - 14:20
  • New Colombo Plan
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Viet Nam

For 2019 New Colombo Plan scholar Jett Osborne, adaptability and an open mind were essential to navigate numerous changes to his NCP program. Jett made the most of new opportunities to gain invaluable experience in the evolving field of precision medicine, connecting with world experts in the field along the way.

The RMIT University Biomedical Science graduate first became interested in science and medicine’s effects on the human body during high school. This led him to pursue undergraduate study in the emerging field of precision medicine for disease treatment and prevention, which takes into account the genetic make-up, environment and lifestyle of each person to tailor-make medicine.

Hong Kong was a natural choice for Jett when it came to selecting the location for his NCP Program. The country is a world leader in biopharmaceutical innovation and precision medicine research, and it was here that Jett completed his degree at Hong Kong’s City University (CityU). However, his exposure to this specialised field extended far beyond the university campus.

“Beyond studying at CityU, where I got to learn from some very prestigious scientific professors, I was accepted into the Hong Kong Life Science Society Mentorship program as the first and only foreigner to be involved in the program,” says Jett. “I still receive ongoing mentorship every few weeks from an expert in computational genetics and precision medicine.”

During his scholarship, Jett volunteered with the Intercultural Education Society. Here he taught Hong Kong youth about Australian culture – although through the experience, he was able to learn far more than he expected about Hong Kong youth culture and the differences in Hong Kong and Australian students’ beliefs.

The ongoing protests and civil unrest in Hong Kong brought Jett’s time in the country to a premature, but memorable end.

“Although the political unrest became impossible to avoid, I felt I was experiencing a turning point for Hong Kong and got to witness the impact that the collective youth can have within a country in order to be heard,” he says.

Jett revised his plans for his NCP program and relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, where he attended the Global Leadership Forum. After that, he travelled to Hokkaido in Japan to undertake intensive Japanese lessons.

An unexpected highlight occurred when Jett was in Ho Chi Minh and waiting to receive some test results at a local hospital.

“A doctor decided to buy me a Banh Mi and wait outside the hospital with me,” he explains. “We had a long discussion about the state of medicine and the hospital system in Vietnam, and the privilege of vaccinations. When I questioned why the doctor was sitting with me when there were other patients to see, he said, ‘Vietnam is still poor in many areas, but if I alone can change the way people perceive hospitals in developing countries and give a positive experience to foreigners here, then I have done my job correctly.’ This experience taught me about the influence one individual can have on a system to provide better service.”

In Japan, Jett was accepted into the International Research Centre of Medical Science Internship Program in Kumamoto. Unfortunately, his plans were disrupted, again, by COVID-19, and his internship and NCP Program were put on hold when he returned to Australia.

 “It’s fair to say I’ve had my adaptability tested numerous times along the way,” Jett reflects about his NCP experience. “Although my original intention was to live, study and intern in Hong Kong, I have been blessed with these additional opportunities through the support of NCP. From the warmth of Hong Kong and Vietnam to the snow of Hokkaido, I have been lucky enough to delve deeply into cultural diversity and extend my roots throughout many places in the Asia-Pacific region.”

While Jett is grounded in Australia for the time being, this is not the end of his NCP journey. He plans to return to the region as soon as he can to further his professional learning in the precision medicine field. For now though, Jett has the following advice for future scholars and interns.

 “Enjoy the process, enjoy meeting lots of people and go into every conversation with an open mind to learn something new.”