It’s truly a new chapter in the life of Dr Akshayalakshmi Vijayaraghavalu (simply known as “Dr Lakshmi”), the latest GP to join Ochre Medical Centre Smithton. Not only is she starting a new job, she is also the proud mother of a baby girl.
Born in India, Dr Lakshmi emigrated to Australia in 2015 after completing her Medical degree. She has worked extensively in emergency medicine as well as having special interests in obstetrics and gynaecology, and she worked in a women’s fertility research centre whilst in India.
Having lived in Perth, Kalgoorlie and various towns in Queensland, Dr Lakshmi is delighted to finally settle in Smithton with her family.
“I feel Tasmania is one of the most beautiful and safest places in the world!” Dr Lakshmi said.
“And Smithton is a lovely town, so friendly and family-orientated. It feels like the right place to raise my children. I originally thought maybe I’d stay for a few years but now we plan to stay long term.
Sometimes you just have a gut feeling that this is what you want.”
Smithton’s size means that Dr Lakshmi will be able to juggle working part time with giving her baby girl the care she needs.
“I live pretty much next door to the practice, so that makes it much easier,” she said.
She was grateful that family members were able to visit from India to help with her new baby with the easing of COVID restrictions - but also grateful to have local support.
“Luckily I have my new Ochre family here in Smithton! They found us our accommodation, which is very lovely, perfectly chosen for us, and I’m sure they’ll continue to look after us.”
Dr Lakshmi comes to Smithton following a year in Mackay in Queensland.
“I settled well into being a local GP there and I had a great bunch of patients, so it was tough to leave,” Dr Lakshmi said.
It was difficult to leave one family in particular.
“A teenage girl came into my clinic one day. We had a conversation and I was able to pick up from how she was behaving that things weren’t quite right - she was afraid.”
Eventually the girl confided that she was in an abusive relationship. She had loving parents, who had warned her against the relationship before she moved in with the man.
“She was wondering how to get help, who she could talk to.”
“I managed to get her all the support she needed from allied health services and a women's refuge. She came back later with her parents and they thanked me, saying I had saved their daughter's life. They said they had tried to warn her, but she was in love. Their view was that I had helped her realise her situation was not how a true relationship should be.”
Dr Lakshmi goes on to tell how her patient got her life back on track, moving back in with her parents and studying for a degree.
“I thought, her case is exactly why I became a GP. I only did my job, but by giving her time and listening to her concerns , I was in a position to change her life. Imagine if she had become pregnant - then what … for both her future and her child's future?”
“It was very difficult to say goodbye when I left Mackay. The whole family had actually become my patients. I hope I’ll be able to build equally strong relationships here in Smithton as I care for members of the local community and look after their overall wellbeing.”