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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.

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