Dr. Dinesh Palipana is a leader.
We were simultaneously honoured and blown away by the inspirational story that Dr. Dinesh shared with our team at ECE. Here’s the story!
Can you tell our readers what a normal day looks like for you?
My days are highly variable. I work between the emergency department of the Gold Coast University Hospital, our research lab at Griffith University, the Disability Royal Commission and a number of other extremely rewarding things. Our emergency department is the busiest in the country. If I am working in the emergency department, I will generally get up about 3.5 hours before work. This is because it takes awhile to get ready due to the spinal cord injury. Well eating breakfast for example, I will attend to things like email and life admin. I’ll organise my calendar then as well. After that, on my way to work, I like to use it as a bit of chill out time to listen to music. However, I might take some phone calls then as well. At work, we will crack on with the business of an emergency department! The drive home from work is generally chill out time. After I get home, I’ll have dinner, shower, then crash.
What role does diversity and inclusion play in the work that you do?
It’s critically important. If the institutions that I worked in didn’t have a focus on inclusion, I wouldn’t be able to work. It’s that simple. But, none of it has come from laws, policies, or guidelines. All of it has come from inclusive attitudes. In my experience, attitudes are the biggest barriers. Attitudes are also the biggest enables. I’ve experienced both in my journey. I’m lucky to have some pretty amazing people in my life that are enablers.
Have you ever faced challenges in your professional career from others because of your identity and if so, how were you able to overcome that?
Definitely. The interesting thing is, until this year, I completely forgot that I was a migrant. I did a large part of growing up in Byron Bay. We went there as soon as we arrived in Australia. Byron Bay was an inclusive place. No one asked me where I was from. No one cared. We all lived together in happiness regardless of a huge socioeconomic spectrum. Therefore, being a migrant has rarely been front of mind. I’ve just felt human and Australian. I truly feel like we live in the lucky country.
The spinal cord injury is a different story. I experienced many barriers from attitudes due to it. I was nearly denied employment because of it. Senior doctors within our hospital, ironically from arguably one of the least physical specialties, said that they “don’t want someone with a spinal cord injury in the department”. A supervisor of the junior doctors said that I should leave clinical medicine to able-bodied people and not take their jobs.
I ignored them. At the end of the day, they can say what they want, but they are not going to the be the ones at the end of the road holding account of my life. It’ll be me. So, I kept going. Again, I was lucky enough to have a lot of supportive people. I celebrate them every day.
ADVICE FOR THE YOUTH
Surround yourself with people that celebrate you. Embrace everyone yourself. Don’t take an exclusionary approach. Don’t take up labels like black or white. We are all human. Be the change that you want to see.
Trade anger for compassion. Use challenges to grow. Energise yourself from frustrations. Most of all, remember, this is your life. These are your dreams. Don’t let anyone stop you.
Want to follow and support Dr. Dinesh?
About the diversity champion:
(he/him) Dinesh was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland and the second person to graduate medical school with quadriplegia in Australia. Dinesh is a doctor, lawyer, disability advocate, and researcher. Halfway through medical school, he was involved in a motor vehicle accident that caused a cervical spinal cord injury. Dinesh has completed an Advanced Clerkship in Radiology at the Harvard University. As a result of his injury and experiences, Dinesh has been an advocate for inclusivity. He is a founding member of Doctors with Disabilities Australia. Dinesh works in the emergency department at the Gold Coast University Hospital. He is a senior lecturer at the Griffith University and adjunct research fellow at the Menzies Health Institute of Queensland. Dinesh is a researcher in spinal cord injury. He is a doctor for the Gold Coast Titans physical disability rugby team. Dinesh is a senior advisor to the Disability Royal Commission. Dinesh was the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service’s Junior Doctor of the Year in 2018. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019. He was the third Australian to be awarded a Henry Viscardi Achievement Award. Dinesh was the Queensland Australian of the Year for 2021.
Image description: Dinesh is smiling at the camera with a blue scrub top with a stethoscope around his shoulders