Dr Sadhana Mahajani from NT is the finalist in Senior Australian of the year 2013

Copy of Dr Sadhana Mahajani

Dr Sadhana Mahajani with   Michael Hohnen, Peter Fletcher, Ferdy Mauboy (on behalf of Jessica Mauboy)

The roll call of inspiring Australians in the running for the Australian of the Year Awards 2013 is now on, with all State & Territory award recipients announced at a series of events around Australia over the past four weeks.

State & Territory award recipients in the four award categories – Australian of the Year, Senior Australian of the Year, Young Australian of the Year and Australia’s Local Hero – are now finalists for the national awards which will be announced in Canberra on 25 January 2013.

Those now in consideration for the national awards include Dr Sadhana Mahajani from Darwin having made to the finalist list for her health work in remote communities for Senior Australian of the Year Award..

She helped establish Darwin’s first community health centre only to see it destroyed by Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

She has since opened a further six health centres and worked in women’s cancer prevention, breast screening and sexual assault services.

Dr Sadhana Mahajani, best known to many as Dr M, retired last year after 38 years of working as a doctor in the Northern Territory, most recently as a geriatrician.

But in the past she’s worked out of Royal Darwin Hospital, in the jail as a medical officer, and in community health centres right around the Territory.

She’s seen plenty of things in 38 years including Cyclone Tracey. Married to a surgeon Sadhana belongs to a family of doctors and the couple worked in remote areas of India as she reminisces that the village they worked in used to get cut off sometimes due to rains. She remembers that they were the best years of their life. Then they decided to move to UK and then to Darwin in 1972 as she remembers that Darwin was a very small place then with only one traffic light and it was so hot that the couple at times used to go to the Woollies and sit there in its air conditioned seats to avoid the mid day heat and take their lunch there. She also remembers cyclone Tracey as Dr M sheltered under a dining table for Darwin’s biggest cyclone, and still shudders at the memory when they lost the roof of their house as everything in the house was ankle deep with pouring rain. Dr M looked after the injured people during that time working long hours. “It was quite tragic,” says she, “I did not have time to think so long as the family was fine as everyone had lost their homes and we decided to help in the hospital and worked long stretch of hours as long as 48 hours some times.”

“We did not have any money and did not get pay for over a month and people were generous and the shops would let us take food items without payment and others would come with vans of water and we used to take showers on the streets and for a while we lived with a friend of ours whose house was made of concrete.”

Practicing medicine in NT, says Dr M, “One time I killed a snake in the house while working for the old Darwin hospital,”   As a medical practitioner Dr M came across many animals including a buffalo who she thought would be tame like the ones in India, “I patted it and it was actually as tame as a dog.”

Dr M worked as medical officer in Darwin jail which she says ”˜the one job I did not like much because of the culture. I was always suspicious of people and suspicion destroys doctor ”“ patient relationship and I remember treating Lindy Chamberlain.”

Working in remote areas, says Dr M, “I suggested  pap smear tests when I talked to aboriginal women and explained to them that it was good for them and they did not mind.”

Dr M says, “Also for aboriginals there were not good scales to test their memories. When I talked to the health authorities to work out a new scale to test their mental state it was developed and is now used in NT on aborigines. I was on the pilot team for the geriatrics in NT as well in the last few years of my work as a doctor.”

Says she, “In retirement I would like to work with Alzheimer’s and may be just a simple job in the soup kitchen.”

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