USC degree takes doctor from clinic to classroom

A medical doctor and clinical researcher of 10 years who treated children with polio in rural India and Nigeria has become a Sunshine Coast high school teacher, encouraging more teenagers – particularly women – into maths and science professions.

Dr Ashwita Venkatesh, who graduated from USC in mid-2020 with a postgraduate degree in secondary teaching, is settling into first term with her students at St Andrew’s Anglican College.

“My job involves teaching maths and science to secondary students, and I love my role as a mentor and role model,” said the Peregian Springs resident.

Dr Venkatesh, who has an MBBS degree in medicine and surgery from Sri Ramachandra university in the city of Chennai, majored in biology for her USC Master of Teaching (Secondary).

She was awarded an academic commendation for her impressive grade point average of 6.62 out of 7 and immediately gained contract work at a Birtinya school.

“I had wanted a career change to teaching and the USC degree gave me the opportunity to apply my previous knowledge and skills,” said Dr Venkatesh.

The 35-year-old formalised her teaching qualifications while facilitating learning sessions for medical students at Sunshine Coast University Hospital from 2019 to 2020.

“It was during my placements from university that I found my passion for teaching high school students,” she said.

“I found it rewarding to be inspiring a new generation of medical and non-medical professionals, and particularly being able to influence more girls to take up these careers.

“I love the relationships and connections made with the kids and when they express how much of a difference being in my classroom has made to them.”

Dr Venkatesh’s former career involved outreach work and joining medical camps overseas.

In rural India, she was part of a team of doctors who performed musculoskeletal surgeries on children affected by polio to give them more mobility.

In Auchi, Nigeria, she joined a Rotary International medical relief camp that provided community care alongside ophthalmologists, surgeons and gynaecologists. Their data collection identified a need for improved ophthalmic care and was presented to authorities.

Dr Venkatesh said she had enjoyed the close-knit community of USC and the accessibility of academics.

“I still value the relationships built with the professors whom I keep in touch with and who continue to support me even after graduation,” she said.

“I think this speaks volumes for the calibre of staff in education and sets a benchmark for what we as educators should aspire to be.”

USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Bartlett congratulated Dr Venkatesh on her career achievements and her intention to influence more young women to study and work in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“As we celebrate the International Day of Women and Girls in Science tomorrow, 11 February, it is wonderful to see more women taking STEM leadership roles,” Professor Bartlett said.

“USC graduates are making a difference across society.”

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