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Dr Thakorbhai Babubhai Patel is bestowed an OAM, for service to the community for a range of volunteer roles
On his first day at Brisbane Grammar School, way back in 1953, a young Thakorbhai Patel was taken aback to see the students dressed in cadet uniform. “I don’t want to go to military school,” the shy student from Fiji told his guardian. “I want to be a doctor when I grow up.”
True to his word, after graduating from Brisbane Grammar in 1959, Thakorbhai Patel went on to study medicine at the University of Queensland and later went on to become qualified as a general practitioner.
On Australia Day this year, Dr Thakorbhai Babubhai Patel was bestowed the Government of Australia’s OAM for “service to the community for a range of volunteer roles”. He is a well-respected and much-loved GP at the Kedron Park Medical Centre serving a grateful community in the Greater Brisbane area, and actively participates in many community roles such as the Rotary Club, Indian Cultural Association and Interplast to name a few.
“What an honour to be chosen for the prestigious award,” the quietly spoken Dr Patel told Indian Link.
He added, “Of course I am not going to rest on my laurels. I have a seven-day working week and I am not planning on retirement despite my 78 years. I intend to keep working as it keeps me engaged and I love seeing the patients in my practice as they come from a wide range of backgrounds.”
Dr Patel was born in Lautoka, Fiji. His grandfather Apabhai Patel had migrated from India and established the trading post AJC Patel Bros. The death of his beloved grandfather due to pneumonia fuelled young Thakorbhai’s ambition to become a doctor.
Of course, Australia took some getting used to, especially for a young lad away from his family.
“It didn’t help that I was vegetarian,” he recalled laughingly. “I remember trading the meat from my meals for the other boys’ butter!”
But his ultimate goal always remained close at hand.
After graduating with an MBBS degree and completing his medical training, he returned to Fiji in 1964 and opened a surgery in Lautoka. His deep love for community projects was born here. One of his major projects was the formation of the Gujarat Education Society of which he became the Founding President. This organisation established a school for children to meet their needs for primary education. He also participated in voluntary services for the Lautoka Crippled Children’s Hospital and was an Honorary Medical Officer for the Lautoka branch of the Red Cross and St John’s Ambulance.
In 1969 Dr Patel moved to Brisbane and started his own medical practice in Windsor. Alongside his busy general practice, Dr Patel founded the Indian Cultural Association and launched an Indian language program on the ethnic radio station Radio 4EB. He is also a qualified Justice of Peace and a life member of Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.
Dr Patel is not new to awards, having won the Ethnic Service Award, Citizen of the Year Award from Brisbane City Council, Australian General Medical Practitioners Award, Paul Harris Fellowship Rotary Award and life membership of Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO).
Dr Patel is also known for his fundraising efforts as Chairman of the Australian Rotary Health Research Fund to support research into specific health issues, and for speaking up about the need for a greater representation of overseas origin doctors in the training programs for credentialing of new trainees.
Talking about his most recent honour, Dr Patel remarked that he owes credit for all the support that he has received from his peers, the community and most importantly his family.
Dr Patel is also passionate about encouraging new migrants to assimilate. “Look beyond your regional and language cliques, and try and broaden your horizons. Give volunteering a go – you will find it to be immensely rewarding.”
He’s come a long way from the reluctant young teen he was when he first came to Brisbane.