Australia Day Honours 2017: Promoting nuclear medicine

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Professor Vijay Kumar AM: Establishing radiopharmaceutical production and research facilities in many institutions in the country

Professor Vijay Kumar AM.Indian Link

Some of life’s extraordinary moments happen when you least expect them.

Sydney-based radiopharmaceutical scientist Dr Vijay Kumar was travelling in Europe when he learned from his wife Shan that he had been picked for an AM honour this Australia Day.

It is an honour only a select few from the country are bestowed with.

The road to this glory has been a long and memorable one.

It was in 1974 that a young Vijay arrived in this country as a bright-eyed research scholar from Tamil Nadu.

“I came here on a scholarship to do my PhD at the Australian National University in Canberra,” he recounts to Indian Link.

Today, his career spanning more than 40 years has given him solid expertise in the field of nuclear medicine. Dr Vijay owes a lot of his professional success and exposure to Westmead Hospital and The Children’s Hospital Westmead.

“Nuclear medicine is a very niche area, which uses radioactive medicines to treat specific diseases. It can improve the treatment and palliative care of patients significantly and also reduce the side effects of treatments in conditions like cancer,” he informs.

In this specialised field, the 67-year-old scientist’s contributions are aplenty.

Over the past two decades, Dr Vijay has played a pivotal role in establishing radiopharmaceutical production and research facilities in many institutions in the country. His contributions to his field of expertise are not just recognised nationally; Dr Vijay was among an elite group of scientists chosen to consult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the atomic arm of the United Nations. This provided a unique opportunity for Dr Vijay to offer professional guidance to several developing nations.

With a long list of achievements, recognitions and awards that Dr Vijay has to his credit, he agrees that the Order of Australia (AM) tops the list. “I feel very honoured by this recognition. What makes me particularly happy is the fact that this will bring recognition to the discipline and hopefully encourage aspiring scientists to take it up seriously.”

Dr Vijay’s drive for community work is also well-known.  A former member of the United Indian Associations and founder of the Sydney Tamil Sangam, Dr Vijay has given back to the Indian community in the country by helping several immigrant Indians to find a footing in Australia.

He however misses giving more time to his passions. “In the past few years I have been caught up with my professional life, and I wish I could dedicate a little more time for my other interests,” he muses.

One of these is perhaps his talent for music. Dr Vijay has utilised his passion to join hands with some Indian community associations/groups to raise funds for charity.

Dr Vijay believes his success stems from the fact that he gets the best of both worlds. “I am very proud of my Indian upbringing, which has nurtured the importance of dedication, hard work and diligence in every task that I undertake,” he reveals. “Couple that with the exposure, professionalism, professional freedom that I acquired from Australia, I am very fortunate to have obtained the best from both cultures.”

He also gives credit where it’s due – to his family. According to Dr Vijay, his wife, a retired histopathology scientist, his 87-year-old mother, son, daughter and his three granddaughters are his greatest strengths.

“My wife having been a scientist herself, it was easy to share sharing professional success with her,” he says. “A supportive family while having a demanding career is the greatest gift. All this success wouldn’t have materialised without them.”

He hopes their support will allow him to continue doing what he has been doing. “I see great opportunities to give more back to the community and revolutionise treatment and care for patients with conditions like cancer,” he says confidently.