Associate Professor Ranjana Srivastava from Monash University’s School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health has been nominated for a prestigious Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism.
Associate Professor Srivastava, who is also a Monash Health Senior Oncologist, is a regular columnist with the Guardian Australia newspaper and website. Her columns touch on the patient-clinician relationship, integrity in medicine, and how the healthcare system manages complex issues such as end-of-life care and chronic pain management.
‘Healthcare from the frontline,’ published in March this year, earned Associate Professor Srivastava a nomination for the ‘2018 Walkey Award for Commentary, Analysis, Opinion, and Critique.’
Associate Professor Srivastava explains why communication is so important.
You’re an oncologist. Why do you also write?
I have always found solace in writing and have often said that I write primarily for myself but if my writing resonates with other people, it's the icing on the cake. Any branch of modern medicine, but especially oncology, provides much food for thought. My encounters with patients routinely make me think about life and death and what matters. I write to make sense of my world and to centre myself - I derive much value from this solitary pursuit that only requires a pen and paper and my thoughts. Writing helps me to be a better doctor and a more thoughtful human being.
Why is medical communication important? What can be achieved through good medical and scientific communication?
Communication lies at the heart of all good relationships, including the doctor-patient relationship. We have all either had a personal experience or known someone who has seen the most brilliant doctor but come away disheartened by a lack of communication. Lack of compassion, empathy and understanding cannot make for a therapeutic encounter, which is why in order to be a good doctor, one has to be a good communicator. For a long time, people have considered good communication an optional extra in the making of a doctor but thankfully, that era is disappearing. Medicine is a foreign language to our patients and it is our duty to deconstruct it in order to help patients achieve better health and optimal well-being.
What does this nomination mean to you?
This is one nomination that is completely unexpected and blew me away! In fact, I elected not to attend the announcements as it was a school night for my young children. At some point of the evening, I checked my phone and did a double-take at the messages that were beginning to arrive! But I still had to phone my editor at The Guardian before I believed the news.
Medicine is a pretty wonderful career by itself but to be a finalist for an award for journalistic excellence is very humbling. When I set out to write, I thought if my columns somehow made a difference to a handful of lives, I would be content. Happily, I have been welcomed and embraced by a world of readers who send me their stories, forward my writing to friends and family and use them in medical training. I couldn't ask for more.
I am personally proud and professionally optimistic that this nomination will democratize medicine and help elevate the doctor-patient relationship.
Associate Professor Srivastava says that no career thrives without the solid belief and support of others.
“I am fortunate to have good friends and great mentors who have believed in me all along, well before I was a public figure. My writing and my thoughts have been shaped by numerous editors, publishers, friends and family and of course, thousands of patients,” Associate Professor Srivastava says.
“They may be invisible to the world but I know that without them, I would not have come so far. I am committed to acknowledging their crucial role in my life and strive to give back to the community so that I may deserve their ongoing support.”