Dr Sandhli Sharma


Dr Sandhli Sharma: Using her father’s inspiration to become a GP

As American writer Clarence Budington Kelland once said: “My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.”

Inspired by her father’s work with Aboriginal people in Broome in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, Dr Sandhli Sharma’s journey to becoming a GP started as a young child.

“Growing up, my father was working at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) in Broome, which aimed to provide health services to Aboriginal people in remote WA communities,” she explained.

“In social events, I tagged along with my father and found myself surrounded by GPs. I found them to be so open, humble, and compassionate, and I wanted to be able to provide the same level of care to people as they did.

“Because I was curious, during school holidays I used to do voluntary work experience at a dialysis centre, Aboriginal health centres shadowing GPs and Aboriginal health practitioners, social emotional wellbeing units, and pharmacies.

“This is when I realised what an important role GPs play working at ground level with patients.

“My first vision of myself as a doctor was as a GP, and I am very glad I maintained that vision throughout my medical school and training.”

Sandhli, who is now a fellow of RACGP after taking her GP training in the NT (including placements in Darwin and Nhulunbuy), now works as a GP at Wellness Medical and Skin Cancer Clinic in Ipswich, Queensland.

She speaks fondly of her time in Nhulunbuy, working at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation and Gove District Hospital.

“I absolutely cherished working in Nhulunbuy,” she said. “Being able to work at the hospital and at Miwatj, I could provide continuity of care to my patients and experience diversity of people, language, culture, nature and medicine it has to offer.

“I gained so much experience with a wide variety of skill sets, even finding myself running the hospital one day and then doing home visits to palliative patients another day.

“It was such a unique experience and I learnt the importance of respecting patient’s wishes and cultural ceremonies, especially towards the end of life.”

Sandhli, who practises yoga and mindfulness in her spare time to allow herself work-life balance, finds being a doctor an incredibly rewarding profession.

“The most rewarding part is knowing when patients are unwell or in pain, and I have gained the knowledge and trust to be able to relieve their sufferings,” she said.

“Patients put so much trust about their health in our hands which makes me want to be a responsible doctor to ensure I am providing the quality care to my patients that they deserve.

“Positive patients’ stories and their smiles bring happiness to my face, and makes me realise how blessed I am to be in this position and how I need to work on myself to maintain that trust and rapport.”

And Sandhli may not be the last member of her family to pursue a medical career.

“It’s a constantly nurturing career and I am so grateful to the decisions I made and my family’s support,” she said.

“My family, especially my grandparents, are so proud of the journey I took, especially being the first doctor in my family, and how I could now encourage my brother to choose this career path as well with me.”

It seems fitting that Sandhli is now providing the same encouragement for her brother that her father gave her when she was a young, wide-eyed child simply wanting to help those in need.