#142 IWD Member profile: Dr Pallavi Prathivadi
8 March 2020
We are celebrating the achievements of AMA Victoria’s female members to mark International Women’s Day on Sunday 8 March. This year’s theme is #EachforEqual:
An equal world is an enabled world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.
AMA Victoria strongly supports a gender equal world and medical profession. In our International Women’s Day profile series, we’re introducing you to some of our dedicated current and future medical leaders.
Introducing: Dr Pallavi Prathivadi
What is your current role in medicine?
I am a fulltime PhD candidate at the Department of General Practice (DGP), Monash University and practice part-time as a GP in a suburban Melbourne clinic. I’m also the Chair of AMA Victoria’s Women in Medicine Committee.
Why did you choose to study medicine?
I have always had an interest in science and medicine, but it was probably my high school that really encouraged me to study medicine. I went to a selective school in South Melbourne (The Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School) that is a machine for making lawyers and doctors! We had really great preparation and career support to help us get into these competitive degrees. At one point, I think half of the members on the Women in Medicine committee were coincidentally from this school!
What is the best part about your work?
I love the team cultures - both at my clinic and at the DGP. My clinic has very friendly receptionists, nurses who are energetic and easy-going and very helpful and fun doctors. I always feel like I’m just working with a group of my friends and we definitely hang out socially outside of the clinic. I also really enjoy having a mix of roles as an academic GP. I think fulltime general practice would be exhausting and put me at real risk of burnout, so having days off without patients or medical responsibilities helps me to enjoy the job. I also love seeing families and understanding how a person’s psychosocial background can have such big impacts on their clinical presentations and health.
What is the hardest part about your work?
Like any speciality of medicine, in general practice we see patients with a wide range of personalities and sometimes that can be challenging. It’s not common, but we do see people who can be quite rude or demanding (sometimes even threatening) to our receptionists, nurses or doctors. I find these consultations very difficult and usually the hardest part of my job. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s just a job and to remember all the great interactions I’ve had, or the people with whom we have wonderful long-term doctor-patient relationships. I think in medicine we could do better at promoting zero tolerance of bullying and harassment of our health professionals and staff.
If you were Health Minister for a day, what changes would you make to the health system?
You’re asking a GP this - obviously I’m going to campaign for increased primary care funding and support! We are at the frontline of medicine and usually the first port of call for people with a health (and often non-health) problem. We need more funding for primary care research, more funding for allied health (such as physio, hydro and psychology services) and better MBS rebates for primary care consultations.
I saw a terrific presentation by a medical student recently about his GP placement. He talked about how the interventional cardiologist gets (well-deserved) credit for putting in a stent and saving the life of a man after a STEMI, but the GP doesn’t get the same credit for managing their patients’ blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diet and preventing those STEMIs in the first place. Anyone who’s worked in general practice will tell you how difficult the job is and how undervalued GPs are. Improving the system supports around primary care will help us provide accessible evidence-based care to more people in this country.
Do you have any advice for others pursuing a career in medicine?
Medicine has so many different roles and opportunities within it; it’s more than just treating patients. We’re also teachers, researchers, policy-makers, social advocates, environmentalists and leaders. I have a friend who stopped practising clinically to become a medical illustrator and write an anatomy textbook. I have other friends who moved into management consulting and NGOs and credit many aspects of their medical training to succeeding in these non-medical jobs. Obviously, the saving lives thing is critically useful and important, but there are so many wonderful additional things we can do with a medical degree. Integrating these various roles might be a great way of maximising the potential we have as medics.
What do you enjoy doing away from medicine?
Nearly all of my friends are doctors, so it’s very rare that I’m ‘away from medicine’ but I suspect this is true for many of us. I do have various non-clinical roles that I enjoy; including being Chair of the AMA Victoria Women in Medicine group. We have an absolutely terrific team of women doctors and medical students and our monthly meetings are so much fun. Although you could probably argue that this is still not ‘away from medicine’!
My main hobby is literature and I usually read for an hour or two a night. Since 2015, I’ve nearly exclusively read books by women (and also mostly women of colour and minority women) in stubborn protest of the lack of diversity in literary prizes and popular reading lists. Fiction is such a terrific way to explore minority narratives and learn about experiences we don’t typically see in media and popular culture. A lot of people ask me why I’ve been doing this and I always encourage them to spend a few months deliberately choosing to read women writers from cultures and languages different to our own, and usually this leads to a massive appreciation of minority storytellers and my mission!
If you want of couple of recommendations to get started, 10 minutes 38 seconds in this strange world by Elif Shafak and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee are particularly beautiful novels.