Kids Corner


From Taxi Driver To Skin Cancer Specialist:
Dr Navtej Singh Sandhu





The term ‘ups and downs’ doesn’t quite get across the dynamic career graph of Dr Navtej Singh Sandhu who has gone on to own a chain of medical centres from being a taxi driver in South Australia.

Come June 5, he will be inducted as an Officer of the Australian Defence Force as a reservist at the age of 53.

Navtej was already a medical doctor when he came to Australia from Punjab in 2004. Unhappy with the working conditions in India, he quit his government sector job and moved to South Australia to study information technology at the age of 40.

“I used to attend my classes in the morning and drove a taxi in the evening,” he says.

But a few months later, he got a job as a General Practitioner (‘GP’) in Woomera, a regional town in South Australia, where he was on call 24/7.

“I was the only GP in the entire area, and even when I used to buy groceries, I had to inform and seek permission [to be away from the practice],” he recalls.

He stayed in Woomera for a year before returning to Adelaide to start his first medical centre in 2008.

Last week, Navtej’s commitment was recognised with the  Defence Reserves Support Council’s Employer Support Awards in the small business category. The award ceremony took place in Canberra, and he was the only winner from South Australia.

He won this award for supporting a nurse at his Hackham Medical Centre, Toni Chapel who is a Lance Corporal in the reserves.

“Toni Chapel earlier nominated us for a state award which we won and then we automatically got nominated for the national award.”

Navtej says he had always wanted to join the Army when he was young but couldn’t do so because of family reasons.

“You know that Sikhs have this thing for the Army in their mind and blood. But my mother was opposed to the idea because I was the only son of my parents."

But it was during the state award ceremony that his latent desire to don the uniform and join the officer ranks came to fore once again and things were set in motion to fulfil it.

“When I was at the state awards, I just asked out of curiosity if I could join the Army at 53. They said ‘yes’, and it all began then and there. I have completed all the requisite training and will be inducted on June 5,” he says.

Navtej has cleared all the exams and the fitness test and will be joining as a doctor Captain in the Reserves. 

Though he runs seven medical centres in South Australia today, he has had his share of struggles in getting there.

Coming from a small town in Punjab, his family moved him to Amritsar to study medicine. He couldn’t get into medicine straight away and had to complete a college degree and then study pharmacy. But he continued to prepare for the MBBS studies and finally made the cut for admission to the course.

After completing his medicine degree, he landed a government job as a doctor and became the president of the state government medical professionals body. After moving to Australia, he got a Master’s degree in IT before starting his own medical centres and becoming a skin cancer specialist.

While many in his situation would like to sit back and look at their achievements with a sense of pride, but it seems Navtej doesn’t want to take it easy any time soon. He is soon embarking on his next mission in Canada where he will learn new techniques to carry out surgical procedures.

But his long-term aim is to do something for his home state, Punjab.

“I treat drug addicts here. But when I am in a position to do so, I want to start drug treatment centres in Punjab on a no-profit, no-loss basis, so that I am able to give back to Punjab,” he says.

[Courtesy: Special Broadcasting Service - Punjabi, Australia. Edited for]

May 31, 2017

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