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Jul 07, 2023

What it's like becoming Australia’s first doctor with quadriplegia


Dinesh Palipana tells us all about his journey to becoming Australia’s first doctor with quadriplegia.

It’s been almost six months since I started work after graduating from medical school. Before I tell you a little bit about what it has been like, I’m going to take a moment to give my thanks to the Gregory and Dolores Farrell Scholarship, administered by Northcott. The scholarship made a large difference in my life as a medical student.

Life as a doctor with quadriplegia has been both fun, and challenging (but only in the best of ways).

I generally kick off my day around three-and-a-half hours before work is due to start. If rounds start somewhere at 7:30AM, I get up at 4AM. This allows me to do all the life things that need to be done, which takes a little bit longer now, with time allowed for things that can go wrong. 

Earlier in the year, I was an intern in O&G (that’s doctor speak for obstetrics and gynaecology). In O&G, I used to prepare the patient list for the day while having breakfast. Who says men can’t multitask? Good food and upbeat music are crucial ingredients to get the day rolling. I am partial to a BIG breakfast in the morning.

I am fortunate to be in a hospital that has adopted electronic medical records. This means that I can prepare for rounds before even leaving the house. I have a secure work iPad that has been kitted out with everything to make this work. It accompanies me everywhere at work, and has been one of the most valuable tools. With this and other things, our hospital has done its best to help me be functional.

I currently work in the Emergency Department. Here, there are no rounds so I can turn up without a pile of lists. In the ED, we look on the screen to see who has been waiting the longest with the most urgent category and go see them. The ED is fun, interesting and has a great working environment. I rarely feel the passage of time here.

There is a long way to go in my career. Nonetheless, I am thankful to have arrived at this point. This is a dream job that’s been backed by an invaluable education. I hope that anyone who is passionate about something has the opportunity to chase it with all their heart. Opportunity is all someone needs and we as a community can foster that if we focus on the possible – not the impossible.

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