After a decade with the Chevron Pilbara Ear Health Program, Dr Aanand Acharya is handing over his ENT duties. We asked him to reflect on his time in the program.
“I joined the Chevron Ear Health Program at the beginning of 2013 and have witnessed it evolve very significantly during my tenure. When reflecting upon the journey it has taken, the people who have blessed and strengthened it along the way, and its current custodians, it is with the utmost humility that I say I am very proud of what the Program has become. It has been an absolute privilege and honour to have contributed to it and to have been involved in its journey.
When I first started with the Program it was a disconnected service that was not engaging effectively with local healthcare providers or our target client group. There was no palpable rapport between the team and our client group, client attendance rates were poor, morale was low and the service simply wasn’t efficient or effective. Since that time, significant effort has gone in to developing the local relationships that are critical to the success of this type of Program.
Over the years there has been significantly increased engagement with local healthcare providers. The Mawarnkarra Aboriginal Medical Service in Roebourne engaged meaningfully with the Program to provide clinical space for the ENT and audiology assessment. The hospitals in Karratha, initially Nickol Bay Hospital and subsequently Karratha Health Campus, have always been absolutely supportive in facilitating the surgical care of our clients, and it has been a pleasure to develop a professional relationship with many of the staff there who have always been very welcoming to our service. Improved communication and interaction with Hearing Australia has facilitated optimised access to hearing devices for our clients. Acquiring a clinical office space in Karratha, initially on Crane Circle and more recently within the Karratha Super Clinic precinct, was a real milestone for the Program, as it helped establish a footprint and base for the care of our clients and for interaction with local schools and healthcare providers, including local GP practices and allied health practitioners.
The most important relationships that have been cultivated over the years are with our client group. The credit for this goes entirely to our invaluable team on the ground in Karratha. Our client group will only place their faith in people they can trust, and I feel very strongly that this is fostered by them consistently seeing and interacting with the same faces, time and again, and witnessing consistency in the care and attention that the team brings with it. I have been blessed to work with a phenomenal group of human beings, for whom working on this Program is not about a pay cheque, but rather about the opportunity to make a difference in an area they feel passionate about. I offer them my most heartfelt and sincere thanks, because the growth and success of the Program is entirely down to their passion, commitment and consistent hard work. It is through them that trust has been galvanised between our team and our target client population. This has had a very positive impact on our client groups’ engagement with the Program and, in turn, its efficacy and success.
Attendance at clinics is now excellent, our clients have faith in the care that the team offers and many are now local advocates for the great work the service delivers. We have witnessed children that we treated many years ago grow up into young adults, some of them now having children of their own and re-engaging with the Program for the benefit of their children, to optimise their outcomes and opportunities. Promoting education and understanding among the community in the importance of good ear health is a fundamental aim of the Program. An Aboriginal Liaison Officer I previously worked with on the Program advised me that that the impact and differences from the work I did would not be seen in the short term, but rather in generational terms, and it is immensely encouraging to see this come to fruition.
While the team on the ground in Karratha is critical to the successful implementation of the Program and its services, they are supported by an equally dedicated team of people at Telethon Speech & Hearing in Perth. Through my time and experience with the Program it has become abundantly clear that the service is most efficient and successful when engagement by the team in Perth is strong. The Program is currently in the strongest position I have ever seen it, with absolutely the right personnel in the various roles, to enable its success.
There is no ‘I’ in team and, as I have already highlighted above, the efficacy of the Program is down to the entire team of people that are committed to its successful delivery and implementation. For me, personally, this has been a beloved chapter in my life. It is therefore with very mixed emotions that I am stepping down from the Program. Having committed significant time and energy to the implementation, growth and evolution of the Program for over a decade, I am very proud of the service that we have built together. The Program is now ripe for a new phase of growth and development and it was therefore very important to me, from a succession planning perspective, that the baton of ENT responsibility for the Program was passed to someone worthy of that responsibility. I would like to thank the executive team involved in the Program for their support in facilitating this succession, and I am delighted in the appointment of Dr Phillip Sale, Consultant ENT Surgeon at Perth Children’s Hospital, to be my successor in this role. I will take away many cherished memories from my time working with all the wonderful people involved in the delivery of service through the Chevron Ear Health Program. I wish Dr Sale and the team every success for the future and I look forward to watching the program grow from strength to strength.
I would like to express my gratitude to Chevron for their continued support and commitment to the Program.
Finally, to my wife and daughters, who have made a number of sacrifices behind the scenes to facilitate my continued involvement in the Program, I am eternally grateful for your patience and support. Thank you.”
From all of us at Telethon Speech & Hearing, we would like to thank Dr Aanand for his dedicated service and commitment to the Chevron Pilbara Ear Health Program. He has been a vital part of the Program and his tireless work has touched the lives of so many families in the West Pilbara. We wish him well in all his future endeavours.