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Associate Professor Ramesh Balasubramaniam from the University of Western Australia has been recognised for his significant contributions to dentistry and the field of Oral Medicine.
At 44, the associate professor is also one of the youngest recipients of the Queen’s birthday honour from our community.
“I was in my office just going through my emails. And that was the first email I saw,” an elated Dr Balasubramaniam told Indian Link. “I was very surprised and honoured.”
He is currently engaged in a complex field of medicine called Dental Sleep medicine with a special interest in research pertaining to orofacial pain.
Why choose such a niche field?
“I really wanted to relieve patients’ pain and suffering,” he revealed. “Chronic orofacial pain can be very distressing and hard to treat.”
“I suppose that challenge excited me and drew me away from general dentistry,” he said.
Sitting Principal of the Perth Oral Medicine and Dental Sleep Centre for over a decade, he was also the founding member of the Dental Specialists Society of Western Australia (founded 2016) aimed at promoting awareness of specialist dental care within the community. A member of the Australian Dental Association since 2000, Dr Subramaniam is also President of the Oral Medicine Academy of Australasia.
The associate professor has delivered over 100 lectures in the field of Oral Medicine all over the globe and has numerous publications to his name.
The Malaysian-born oral medicine specialist’s Indian links run deep thanks to his passion for the field.
“Besides some aid work in the past, I have ties to India within the oral medicine and radiology community. If it wasn’t for the global pandemic, I was going to go to India again this year to do some lectures in Dental Sleep Medicine, obviously, now they’re all online.”
“I have many dear colleagues in India. When I wrote my textbook, my colleagues in oral medicine in India were very generous in providing clinical images of some of the rare diseases of the mouth, which was helpful for the textbook,” Assoc Prof Ramesh Balasubramaniam said.
Graduating from UWA in 2000, he travelled overseas and received diverse training in Orofacial Pain and Orofacial Medicine at the University of Kentucky and University of Pennsylvania respectively, returning to Australia in 2008.
So what has been the highlight of his career?
Shining a spotlight on Oral Medicine in Western Australia has so far been the most fulfilling for Assoc Prof Ramesh Balasubramaniam.
“When I got back in 2008, Oral Medicine was not a recognised specialty in Western Australia. Fortunately, in 2009. I was, along with a couple of other colleagues, instrumental in getting the specialty recognised,” he remarked rejoicingly. “We met with the Health Minister at the time, Nicola Roxon, after which there was a change in the Dental Board of Western Australia because, at that time, there was no national board. All states had different boards. And thankfully, Oral Medicine was recognised.”
He calls Australia a “lucky country”.
“I think, regardless of your profession, if you happen to be blessed to be born in this country or be able to migrate to this country -life’s good.”
However, the Oral Medicine expert acknowledges that his journey to success was probably much easier than those who received their training overseas.
“If you were to come as a qualified dentist from overseas, and then sit the Australian Dental Council exam, go through all the textbooks again, practice your practical work again, essentially become a student again, it’s challenging. It’s not an easy exam, in fact, pass rates are very low because the standards are very high.”
“But when one does hear of an overseas trained dentist practising in Australia, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘this person must be an excellent dentist’ to be able to do it all again.”
“I sincerely hope this award will motivate others in the field of dentistry as well as other areas of unmet need in Australia to excel in those fields,” Dr Balasubramaniam expressed.
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