Carli Westmore began working at the age of 15 to support her family, relinquishing her aspirations of becoming a specialist surgeon.
Today she has overcome adversity and is on her way to realising her dream.
Home-schooled until Year 8 equivalent, Ms Westmore completed her Year 10 equivalent at TAFE.
Encouraged into Open Foundation by a friend, Ms Westmore completed the course in 2004 and completed a Bachelor of Oral Health in 2007. She is now studying a Bachelor of Medicine degree.
"I always wanted to go to University and become a specialist surgeon but I never thought I would be able to do it with my background," Ms Westmore said.
"My family moved around a lot, my parents split up and we struggled financially so I thought I would be forever working to bring some money into the family unit.
"No-one in my family had been to university before and I didn't think I would have the time or academic ability to study a degree."
Open Foundation is for people over the age of 20 and provides a qualification that can be used to gain entry into university.
"Open Foundation offered me support and help to achieve the academic standards required to study at university," Ms Westmore said.
"It challenged me to think differently, and I really enjoyed learning with people from a variety of backgrounds who all wanted to help each other through the course."
Deputy Director of the English Language and Foundation Studies Centre, Dr Keryl Kavanagh, said Open Foundation was the ideal program for people considering a career change or study at university but didn't have the entry qualification.
"The University of Newcastle is the leader in providing alternative pathways to tertiary education. In the 30-plus years we have been offering the Open Foundation program we have helped thousands of people make the transition to university study," she said.
Applications for the one-year part time Open Foundation program close Friday 30 January 2009, with classes commencing from Monday 2 March.
Open Foundation representatives will be at shopping centres across the Newcastle, Cessnock and Port Stephens areas throughout January. Information sessions will also be held at the University's Newcastle and Central Coast campuses. For details visit www.newcastle.edu.au/elfsc