A DREAM MADE IN THE LUCKY COUNTRY
PEDIATRICIANS DR LEANNE BROWNING AND DR SHAILJA SINGH HAVE STARTED LITTLE SPROUTS PEDIATRICS AT ST VINCENT'S PRIVATE HOSPITAL
Toowoomba paediatrician Dr Shailja Singh considers herself a lucky woman.
After years of study and full-time work while also starting a family, she has fulfilled her dream to open her own private specialist paediatric practice.
Shailja has joined friend and colleague Dr Leanne Browning to start Little Sprouts Paediatrics and their aim is to provide children from the Darling Downs and surrounding region with holistic care and services that complement the care families receive from their local doctors and GPS.
Originally from Fiji, Shailja moved to Toowoomba in 2002 to begin work as a paediatric registrar at the Toowoomba Base Hospital.
While she had already gained extensive adult medicine and obstetric experience in the largest hospital in Suva her dream was to be a paediatrician and a phone call from Australia started her on the long journey to fulfil that dream.
“I think I am the luckiest person. I was really interested in furthering my studies so I applied for a registrar position at the Toowoomba Hospital,” Shailja recalls.
“Dr John Coghlan was the head of paediatrics at the time and because I was in Fiji, he did a phone interview — he offered me the position based on that phone interview.
“Looking back, he took a gamble but it was a good gamble because I have been working in paediatrics ever since I landed in Australia.”
Shailja said she became a familiar face at the Toowoomba Hospital, and was fondly known as “the yoyo” by the Toowoomba Hospital staff because she kept bouncing back for short periods to work in the unit while she had her family.
She admits she sometimes found it hard to juggle all her competing priorities.
“I had to complete all the requirements to receive general registration as a practitioner in Australia and then I completed six years of paediatric training working between the Royal Children’s Hospital Brisbane, Rockhampton Hospital, Toowoomba Hospital and Lady Cilento Children’s Hospitals,” Shailja says.
“I also completed a Master in Public Health and Tropical Medicine and had two children during this period.
“I guess it is no wonder Ravin, my husband of 20 years, and my 17 and 12-year-old daughters think I am a workaholic.” Shailja says her passion drives her. “I was given an opportunity to fulfil a dream and I wanted to make the best of it,” she says.
“Paediatrics is my utopia — I absolutely love everything about paediatrics.
“I love the challenges each child brings, I love the cry of a newborn and the tears of joy from an exhausted mum and overawed dad.”
Shailja finds a huge reward when a sick child makes a recovery.
“I love the stick figure drawings and scribbles the children give me.
“I love that I can listen to and help a mum who has just shared her concerns and I feel so privileged when a teenager walks back into a consultation so that they can talk to me in private.
“These moments are equally provoking and humbling — every moment is an etching.”
With her dream now a reality, Shailja’s hard work and perseverance have earned her the respect of her colleagues, hospital staff and the families she cares for.
When asked what’s next, Shailja says one day she would love to return to Fiji to work.