Dr Natasha Perry is a passionate Senior Clinical and Health Psychologist with the Hunter New England Local Health District. In her role, she utilises her clinical experience and expertise to lead initiatives that aim to improve the quality of care for people accessing the health service. She is also a Conjoint Lecturer at the University of Newcastle.
Throughout her career, Natasha has written scientific journal articles, co-written textbook chapters and has had her work presented at several national and international conferences. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2016, which took her to on an extensive worldwide trip investigating the effectiveness of treatment programs for young people with substance use problems and related complexities.
Outside of work, she’s an amateur golfer, food snob and self-proclaimed art critic. She enjoys the beach and playing board games with friends and family.
- What career path led you to where you are now?
I did a Psychology Degree and then a two-year internship. Because I’m a bit of a glutton for punishment, after that I did a Doctor of Clinical Health Psychology and tried a variety of different settings before realising that the public sector is where I wanted to be. After a few years in the public sector, I realised pretty quickly that there’s not really a career path as such that leads to the role I’m in now because Psychologists typically do their clinical work. For me, it was kind of walking along the path that was less travelled. Stopping at a few roundabouts, giving way at times and then trusting that the light would eventually turn green.
The last few years have been full steam ahead and the breath of work that I’ve been doing in my career since then has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. So, if there’s an opportunity that I’ve been interested in and that door is knocking, I’ve opened the door and have probably gently nudged a few doors open as well. I’ve also maybe made a bit of noise about the squeaky doors along the way. So here I am.
But essentially, for me, I could never have imagined the doors that my Churchill Fellowship would open. Travelling internationally and putting my hand up to really try to put my hat in the ring and make a difference has been phenomenal.
- What motivates and drives you?
My motivation really comes from the people that we treat. I support a team of clinicians and also maintain some clinical work myself. I’m really motivated by hearing clients’ stories. I think when you have an understanding of somebody’s background and what it is that they need from you, that’s really motivating to help yourself push your boundaries and get out of your comfort zone to really help clients be the best that they can be. I’m really fortunate that I’m in a role where I get to support other clinicians to help them be the best clinician that they can be.
On a more personal level, my motivation really comes from within. I need to be challenged. I like the hard work. I need to have a variety of things to do that satisfies all of the different parts of me and that constant need for me to identify the gaps and try to work out solutions that haven’t really been done before, is what keeps me going.
- What has been your biggest learning curve in your career?
There’s been many. Probably the biggest learning curve for me is to really slow down and take things at their own pace. I tend to work hard and fast. Working in the public sector for such a large organisation within an even broader system has really slowed me down in thinking about the changes that we make and how they have an influence on the broader system.
Often the clients that we’re seeing don’t just need our service, they need other health services. They potentially need education involvement, involvement with the justice system, non-government organisations, the private sector and/or the hospital system. All of our systems don’t really work – we try to collaborate – neatly together. Everyone’s got different clinical backgrounds and databases and different KPIs, so that can be really challenging at times. I think just acknowledging that that takes time but to still persist is still a big learning curve.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years?
It’s really hard to imagine what opportunities will be out there in 10 years’ time. I’m in a role at the moment that is really fulfilling. I get to work on a variety projects that keep me challenged and interested. I think in 10 years’ time, I hope to be doing much of what I’m doing now. But because I’m in a role that is constantly evolving, there’s always new projects to work on and new people to collaborate so we can really try to make our system better than it already is.
I don’t really know what’s in store for me, but I think at the moment I’ve followed my interest and I’ve always been engaged in what I’m doing. I hope that there will be more opportunities in the future.
- Have you had any significant Hunter-based mentors during your career who inspire you?
I’ve had many. I’ve been really fortunate to work with a variety of people throughout my career. Psychiatrists, psychologists and administration workers always bring me some kind of inspiration. But, this question really made me think about our Clinical Director, Professor Adrian Dunlop. He is also the Chief Addiction Medicine Specialist for the state’s Drug and Alcohol Branch.
He’s been that person who pushes me to do things outside of my comfort zone. If I think I won’t apply for something or if I float an idea past him, he’ll strengthen it and help me turn it into something great. I’m really fortunate to have the opportunity to work so closely with him.
With thanks to Hunter Young Professionals who Hunter Headline collaborated with to source this interviewee.