Be inspired by Shewit Belay’s journey

By Valerie Khoo

Last week, I was fortunate enough to go to the opening night of the musical phenomenon Hamilton in Brisbane (thanks Rah!). If you’ve followed my podcast or social media, you’ll know that I’m a massive Hamilton fan. Sure, as one of the founding fathers of the United States, Hamilton’s own story is inspirational. But there are also inspirational stories found in the cast members who are currently on stage.

One cast member that intrigued me was Shewit Belay. One of her Instagram posts said it all:

Just over a year ago, I signed my first contract to begin working as a junior doctor. A few weeks ago, I signed my first contract to begin working as part of @hamiltonaustralia

Whaaatttt??!! Yes, you read that correctly. Shewit is a medical doctor, and graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. According to an interview with her alma mater, St Mary’s College in Hobart, she started working as a junior doctor at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in 2021 and is now also working towards a Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

In the interview, she says: “Although I was both academically and musically inclined, I made the decision to pursue mainly science and maths subjects from Year 10 onwards. Around this time, I had been taught by some phenomenal science teachers at St Mary’s, two of whom were women. Seeing their commitment to teaching and how that translated into a positive learning environment for me and my peers was a big motivator. Women are, or have been, at least, underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and medicine. I am grateful that my learning environment empowered me to engage with these subjects despite this.”

A refugee from Eritrea, Shewit’s family settled in Tasmania. In the interview, she continues: “To a large extent, arriving in Australia as a refugee with my immediate family has also coloured my ambitions. There are many ways that refugees have been portrayed in the media with many of these images being negative. I refuse to subscribe to this, and this fuels my determination to exceed the expectations placed on me simply because I am a refugee.

“Although I consider myself Australian, I am also a proud Eritrean, and I would like to return to Eritrea to work in the future. I never met him, but the legacy of my late uncle, Dr Semere Fre (a graduate of the Addis Ababa University School of Medicine), is something I endeavour to continue. The likes of Dr Catherine Hamlin, Dr Andrew Browning and Dr Fred Hollows, all of whom have worked in East Africa, are also some of the people from whom I draw my inspiration.”

And then there’s Hamilton.

A mere year after starting her work as a doctor, Shewit followed her musical dreams and landed a coveted spot in the Australian cast of the biggest musical in the world. She could have thought: “No, I’ll just stay in my lane.” She could have considered: “Is it really possible?”

Clearly, she just went for it. And I hope we can all take inspiration from this. I’m passionate about the idea that we should follow our creativity curiosity and allow ourselves to explore our passions. That creative itch is there for a reason. It’s pointing you down a path that your soul wants to tread.

Your wildest dreams may even come true. But that’s only going to happen if you pursue them.

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