Dr Mulavana Santhadevi Parvathy is surprised and humbled after receiving the Queen’s birthday honour this year for her contribution to medicine and medical education. “I’m not sure if I deserve this,” she laughs bashfully.
Her impressive list of accomplishments says otherwise.
She has been working with Hunter New England Local Health District since 1985 as a general practitioner, and since 2000 in the education sector as a senior lecturer, in the discipline of general practice for the University of Newcastle.
In 2006 she became director for the International Medical Graduates Program. As an overseas-trained doctor herself, she considers this one of her great passions. “We look after overseas trained doctors who come here to work with us from around the world,” she described to Indian Link. “We organise orientations for them and ensure that they’re looked after, are mentored, and have all the resources and support they need.”
Since 2013, Dr Parvathy has been the director for the Hospital Skills Program looking after education, mentoring and rendering ongoing support to doctors. Additionally, she has been a foundation member and governance committee member for Workplace based Assessment Program since 2010. This is an innovative programme, founded by her husband Prof Kichu Nair AM, which provides an alternate route for International Medical Graduates to practice in Australia. She continues to work as GP in her practice.
The Cochin-born MBBS graduate says the most rewarding aspect of her job is working closely with people. “I love working with people. I have been looking after some of my patients for over 30 years now and it is such a privilege to develop these relationships and bonds with people over the years.”
The current climate of global retaliation towards racial injustice and ethnic discrimination begs the question, has she ever encountered racism or bias in her professional life?
“In my experience, most people are welcoming and open minded. In the early years I received lots of support from my Australian colleagues, which was invaluable. Unfortunately, racism exists in every society. It is human nature to be wary of people who are different. As people of colour, we will inevitably experience racism in some form or the other. Often it is subtle, and you are left wondering what just happened.”
She has counsel to combat this. “You’re presumed incompetent unless proven otherwise. At the end of the day, we need to work hard, harder than most people to prove our worth and capability. Any community that is a minority will experience its share of difficulties and challenges. We need to value ourselves and keep working hard.”
Some advice regarding COVID-19? “This is a new virus and we’re all eagerly waiting for a vaccine. The next few weeks are pivotal for us as they will determine where we’re heading so let’s take responsibility, maintain social distancing and follow the rules especially as the flu season approaches.”
She also has sage advice for young people considering a profession in medicine. “The most important thing, is to do what you love doing. See where your passions lead you even if that takes some time to figure out. Happiness comes from doing what you love.”
With nearly four decades of work and an illustrious career, where does she see herself going from here? “As long as I’m healthy and able to work and my patients want to see me, I will continue to work,” she smiles.