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30 minutes with … Shannon Bullen

What are you currently studying?
 
I am in my final semester studying a Bachelor of Public Health and a Bachelor of Media and Communication at QUT. 
 
Where is your current student placement & how long have you been doing that?
 
For my Public Health professional practice unit, I am completing a placement here at Epilepsy Queensland. I started in July and will be here for four months, finishing up in October.
 
Why did you choose Epilepsy Queensland as your placement?
 
I chose Epilepsy Queensland as my first preference for placement as I saw the opportunity to learn about a condition that I really had very little knowledge of, despite being about to graduate with a health degree. I am interested in working in the non-profit sector and I thought the Seizure First Aid Awareness project seemed a really good fit for my background and interests in both Public Health and Communications. Finally, I thought the project was really worthwhile and wanted the opportunity to contribute to something important, with real, positive outcomes. 
 
What is your connection to epilepsy?
 
My brother-in-law has epilepsy. 
 
Why do you think seizure first aid awareness is so important?
 
As 1 in 10 people will experience a seizure in their lifetime, it is important that people are educated not only on what to do, but how to recognise someone may be having a seizure. I am learning that epilepsy is a complex condition and seizures present in different ways depending on the individual. Seizure first aid is simple to administer and knowing what to do and how to best support someone having a seizure is essential in minimising harm to the person and in some circumstances, potentially saving their life.
 
Where else have you worked, studied or volunteered in your life?  
 
I have a background in retail and small business management and I am also a qualified florist, which I worked at for about 7 years. I still sometimes help out at Valentine’s Day if my former boss ropes me in! Whilst I loved the creative aspect of the job, I always wanted to go to university and when my daughter was about three years old in 2014, I decided it was time to start working towards this goal. I studied on an alternating full and part-time basis around work and family commitments, including welcoming a son in 2015. I persevered and here we are, five and a half years later and it is looking promising that I will be graduating this December! I am quite involved in my community, often helping out at the local primary school, C & K Kindergarten and the Nundah-Wavell Girl Guides. I have also previously volunteered for the Cancer Council and I’m a member of the Australian Red Cross and the Australian Health Promotion Association.
 
What do you love about assisting a charity and what is your favourite thing you have done so far?
 
In a charity organisation you find wonderful people- community-minded, dedicated and passionate about improving the quality of life of others. It is rewarding to know that I am helping out in a grass-roots organisation that works directly with the community, where you can see first-hand the positive impact of the work. I have really enjoyed speaking to people from each department as Epilepsy Queensland is a multi-disciplinary team. I have already learnt so much, particularly from my supervisor Karen, who is just so patient, knowledgeable and generous with her time.
 
Why do you think it is important to contribute to health related not for profit organisations?  
 
Health is a fundamental human right and when people are healthy and have a good sense of well-being, it has wider, positive impacts on family, friends and their community. Public Health is founded on principles of social justice and equity. Equity acknowledges that people have different and individual needs to achieve optimum health outcomes and health-related non-profit organisations actively work with communities toward this goal.
 
What would you like to achieve in your time at Epilepsy Queensland or after you graduate?
 
I am really enjoying learning as much as I can about digital communications tools and how they can be harnessed to engage with, and further connect the Epilepsy Queensland community with services, information and each other. I also think they are a useful mechanism to disseminate information to the general public aimed at improving understanding and awareness of conditions such as epilepsy. Health communications is such an important field and having the ability to interpret scientific information and communicate that accurately on a mass scale is vital, particularly in this new era of “fake news” we find ourselves in. It is definitely a field that I can see myself working in, in the future.
 
Where would you most like to travel? 
 
When the kids are older I would really love to take them to Africa. Shorter term, I have not yet been to Paris or the Greek Islands so I think a European vacation next year would be a nice graduation present.
 
What is your favourite food? 
 
I can and will eat everything, I can’t actually think of something I wouldn’t sample at least once. I have tried some unusual things on my travels including snails, frog legs, ants, eel and fried tarantula! My big weaknesses are cheese and chocolate and my favourite thing to do of a weekend is to go out for brunch. 
 
Describe your most embarrassing moment?  
 
A situation that springs to mind is from over the summer holidays when after an outing I caught a business taxi (as it was the first one available) with the kids from the city with the intention of going home. Despite several bathroom trips prior to the 15 minute journey, as we approached our suburb, my daughter needed to go to the bathroom yet again. Insisting she could not wait, she started to wail and cry, not listening to me when I told her were nearly home. By this time we were actually in the street where our house is. Fearing an accident on the leather seats, I had the driver quickly pull over and my daughter jumped out. With no sense of modesty she urinated in front of the nearest house. I tried to shield her while paying the driver and hoping that none of the people that live on our street were witnesses. It was then a mortifying 50-metre walk to our front door, swearing to myself I would never take the children out in public again!
 
What is your favourite book/author?  
 
I try to read widely so choosing a favourite book or author would be like me trying to choose a favourite child. You will usually find me reading historical fiction, health sciences or women’s health literature or a good dystopian novel. I do seem to favour female authors and protagonists. The last book I read was “Where the Crawdad Sings” by Delia Owens and I am currently reading “Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee.
 
Who is the most famous person you have ever met?  Or who would you like to meet?  
 
I’m not really into celebrity culture. The people I most admire are the day-to-day heroes such as nurses, teachers and social workers. I did say hello to Cuba Gooding Jnr whilst out and about one night here in Brisbane some time ago. I would love to meet primatologist Jane Goodall, I think she is a very inspiring person.
 
What genres of music do you like listening to/favourite song? 
 
I love folky-pop, alt rock, 80s and 90s hits and a good showtune. I desperately wish I could sing well, but I don’t let it stop me -although my family have asked me to before. 
 
Do you have any interesting hobbies you would like to tell us about?  
 
I’m most interesting and adventurous when I’m off travelling. I have swum with sharks, stingrays and a manatee in the wild in Belize, walked over lava and visited ancient ruins in Guatemala, been heli-hiking on a glacier in New Zealand, zip lining in Cambodia and scuba-diving in Thailand. In day-to-day life I’m much more of a homebody, staying home to tend to all my indoor plants!
 
What do you feel would greatly improve epilepsy care currently in Queensland?  
 
I feel like greater public education and awareness is required to reduce stigma around the condition and thus improve social inclusion and the mental health and wellbeing of people living with epilepsy. I have an interest in research and I think this is really important in informing evidence-based and best practice in epilepsy treatment and care.
 
For more information on seizure first aid: http://bit.ly/EQISeizureFirstAid