A NEUROSCIENTIST AND POET NOT LETTING CEREBRAL PALSY GET IN HER WAY
Jerusha Mather is gaining some well-earned attention both in the medical community and the literary world.
On top of completing a PhD in neuroscience, the 25-year-old has just published her first book of poetry, 'Burnt bones and beautiful butterflies'.
The book's title is inspired by Jerusha's lived experience with cerebral palsy. "I based it on a thought that beautiful things come out of challenging circumstances. Hence, the term; burnt bones and beautiful butterflies. Life throws at you negative and positive things, but there is goodness in everything when you find the courage to look deeper. These are the key messages I am trying to convey in my book," she explains.
Jerusha has gone to great efforts to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. She is aware of the harsh prejudice people with disabilities face when entering the medical field. "There's very little representation in the medical field," says Jerusha. The lack of representation has a strange tinge of irony to it, that a sector so centrally focussed on treating disability and illness, is seemingly opposed to including individuals like Jerusha in the healing process.
"There are lots of mental barriers, like the way people think about disability. I think that needs to change."
Since beginning her studies, Jerusha has been networking with the heavy hitters of the medical world and helping tear down the existing walls that make it difficult for people with disabilities to practice medicine.
"I have been in conversation with the Australian Medical Association, and they have been very helpful. They're a very good advocate for me; they are pushing for change alongside me," she says.
The radical influence that Jerusha is creating extends beyond medicine, with the recent success of her published book of poetry, Jerusha is proving arts and science can coexist. "I started writing poetry on Instagram. Instagram is a great way to get your message across to people." What began as a few posts, eventually fleshed itself into an epic masterpiece containing ninety-three poems and exquisite illustrations.
Jerusha explained that many of her friends were encouraging her to write a book. The actual process of getting published was hindered by the challenge of finding a publisher willing to back a book of poetry. Her work has been described as "receiving a phone call from her inner self."
This year, the theme for International Day of Persons with a Disability is 'Building back better: towards a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 World.' The issue of accessibility has and continues to be an issue for the disabled community, with a focus on not all disabilities are visible. It's a theme that resonates strongly with Jerusha.
"It doesn't matter if you're disability is visible or not - we really need to start thinking of ways we can make life more accessible for someone with any sort of disability." She adds, "just because you can't see the disability doesn't mean that someone needs more assistance or more specific supports, I think universities and workplaces need to understand that."
In the future, Jerusha hopes to work as a rehabilitation physician so she can use her lived experience in a meaningful and practical way for the lives of other people with disabilities.
(Poetry by Jerusha Mather) I am too soft for the stony-hearted Too quiet for the confident Too meek for the strong But that's just who I am Don't change me You don't understand me You haven't walked in my shoes You haven't had a heart as loud as lions And a soul full of broken shiny stars That light up all the dark places