“Hi, I’m Ghauri Aggarwal and I live in Sydney Australia. I have two children in their 20s. I am a Palliative Care Physician in a large Palliative Care service and love the work I do. Education and service development are areas that keep me busy and I have been the Head of the Palliative Care Department for the last 25years, recently taking on a wider district position to oversee its strategic palliative care development. I’ve enjoyed immensely being part of the APHN family.”
Tell us about your background. How did you get into Palliative Care and what made you stay?
I migrated with my parents, when I was a young child, to Australia from Malaysia. I always wanted to be a doctor and pretended to use a stethoscope examining everyone as a child, even at the age of 5, though I had no doctors in the family. As a medical student, I realised that patients who were dying weren’t well taken care of and that their holistic needs were never addressed. Doctors felt like a ‘failure’ when their patient died. I became interested in this area and developed a great passion for talking to patients. Over the time of training and working in Palliative Care, I have sustained my passion in this field, because I could marry the Science and the Art of Medicine and that has been the most appealing. It continues to inspire my own personal journey of reflection, compassion, and the spiritual domain of humankind and at the same time using my ‘brain’ in engaging with the increasing evidence base in our specialty.
How do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted palliative care in Australia and around the region?
The pandemic initially pushed palliative care services in Australia to have a voice about maintaining good symptom control, compassionate care, and access to care for all, including those who were dying. We rapidly worked on strategies and policies to guide this. The use of virtual health/telehealth and working with Zoom meetings gave us new platforms to engage with. Over the two years, the pandemic has impacted our resilience and many of us and our services are struggling to sustain ourselves and our services. In the region, there has been a great impact on palliative care services: in how they’ve been stretched or lost and this is something we need to prevent from happening again in the future, at the same time, we have learned a lot from the pandemic.
You have been on the APHN Council since 2009. What role do you believe the organisation has in the development and growth of palliative care in the region?
I see APHN as a platform to ‘bring us all together’, to exchange ideas, make connections, and to build our resources. Through the Lien Collaborative programme, it has really given us a structured way to help advocate, build services and develop education and training opportunities for the specialty of Palliative Care in selected countries. The future is to develop more of an advocacy role, to build and promote academic and research activity in the region through APHN Conferences. We need to become a stronger voice in our region.
You co-lead the Lien Collaborative’s Sri Lanka Train the Trainer programme. What were your takeaways from the programme and did you have any memorable experiences?
Every trip I made to Sri Lanka was memorable: the people and friendships I made, the services I interacted with, the amazing sights and food!!! The success was in identifying champions who have worked hard to develop improved resources and access to palliative care in various parts of the country. To develop curriculum and training opportunities for nursing and medical palliative care and the acknowledgment of Palliative Care as a Speciality at the Ministry and government level. What is exciting is that the work and passion continues and each year we see further development as more people are being trained in this field. You need engagement from the top (government) down and from the ground up (workers).
What do you enjoy outside of palliative care?
I play the Veena (Indian classical instrument) and still take weekly classes, where I often get into trouble because I ‘haven’t practiced enough’! I love travelling around the world, and exploring food, people, and new destinations. I enjoy time with friends who love to party, eat/drink and enjoy life. I love exploring the spiritual side of what it is to be me/human: yoga, meditation, and walking.
Share with us your life motto.
I am responsible for my life as I can choose the responses I make to the journey I’m on, even when there are curved balls along the way!
Look out for our next mini interview with our co Vice-Chair, Dr Masanori Mori!