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Professor Harshal Nandurkar, AM: King’s Birthday Honours 2023

Melbourne's Dr Harshal Nandurkar is honoured with the AM for significant service to medicine, particularly as a haematologist.

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Melbourne haematologist Professor Harshal Nandurkar has been appointed to the order of AM in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours.

Dr Nandurkar is currently Director of the Cancer Program at Alfred Health, Deputy Director of the Cancer and Medical Specialties Program, and Director of Clinical Haematology.

He is also Professor of Haematology at Monash University, and Director of its Australian Centre for Blood Diseases.

He also heads the university’s Nandurkar Group, conducting and guiding research in vascular biology.

“I’m elated that I’ve been recognised with the AM,” Dr Nandurkar told Indian Link. “I’m grateful that a bunch of people thought that I deserved this.”

A Mumbai lad, he came to Australia in 1986 with a medicine degree, and then undertook specialised study in haematology and pathology.

He then spent four years doing a PhD in blood cancer at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Australia’s leading medical research institute.

A post doctorate at Monash Uni took another four years.

“I worked through this at St. Vincents Hospital as a haematologist but also had my own research labs,” he described.

After fifteen years at the University of Melbourne as Prof and Head of Department of Haematology until 2015, he moved to The Alfred.

“Clinical work is an important part of what I do, including seeing patients twice a month at a Mildura outreach,” Dr Nandurkar described. “And my own research continues alongside – I’m currently researching the design of new drugs for blood clotting.”

He speaks passionately about haematology and the advances we can expect to see in the coming decade.

Describing his field of specialisation, he said, “We study blood diseases – cancers, clotting, DVT, bleeding disorders like haemophilia. Pathologies and biopsies are also part of what we do. We also diagnose and treat patients, with treatment options changing so fast that it is really a great time to be a haematologist.”

Haematology is at the forefront of innovation, according to Dr Nandurkar. Biological therapeutics, referred to simply as ‘biologicals’, are set to impact treatment procedures in a major way. These are medicines that are proteins purified from living culture systems or from blood and plasma, and could include vaccines, immune modulators or monoclonal antibodies.

In his own work, Dr Nandurkar is excited about the advent of antibodies designed to identify blood cancers and eliminate them.

“Progress in blood cancer research is expanding at logarithmic scale. A big growth area is a new treatment procedure called CAR T-cell therapy.”

CAR T-cell therapies are a specialised kind of immunotherapy in which the patient’s own immune system is “retrained” to identify and attack cancer cells. In use since 2017, CAR T-cell therapies have been successfully employed in the treatment of blood cancers such as lymphomas, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.

Dr Nandurkar is grateful for the research and clinical opportunities that have come to him in Australia.

“Moving to Australia was the best thing I’ve done,” he observed. “Of course I have a deep sense of gratitude for India and the grounding it gave, no question about it. But I’ve felt enormously supported here.”

He acknowledged however, “The US and Europe have a great tradition of research, as well as greater funding, but Australia is catching up. I like to advise younger doctors to go spend a couple of years outside of Australia to get experience.”

AM honours like his, Professor Harshal Nandurkar feels, can stimulate early-career doctors further. “Hopefully this will encourage young medical students, and young doctors especially those that have come from other countries, to do great things, and to recognise that Australia is a fair and equitable place to work. The infrastructure is there to support you. If you apply yourself and work hard, success will come. Australia is a wonderful place to be a doctor.”

READ ALSO: Associate Professor Ravi Subramanya Bhat, AM: King’s Birthday Honours 2023

Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni Anand Luthra
Rajni is the Editor of Indian Link.

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