Born in India, raised in New Zealand and now living in Sydney, junior doctor Ashna Basu has made mental and sexual health her focus since graduating from UNSW. Now, she’s half-way through a transformative year off clinical medicine to reflect, re-group and pursue other projects. Here, Dr. Basu talks the importance of taking a break, the three inspiring female powerhouses in her life, the book that’s changed the way she practices and why self-care means so much more than face masks.
“Who doesn’t love a sisterhood? As soon as I learnt about Future Women, I wanted to be a part of this community of amazing women. I love a cross-industry collaboration, and was excited by the chance to meet women from different industries.
“I’m a doctor, but I’ve taken a year off clinical medicine. I felt like I really needed to take a break, to reflect, and pursue some other interesting projects. It’s been so transformative, so now I preach fervently to medical students about the importance of reflective practice to identify your internal values, drivers and purpose, and coupling those with a strengths-based approach to guide your career. That’s taught me more about the ways we can work with people to help them unlock their potential, so I’ve got a growing interest in that area as well.
“At the moment I’m working with a G08 university to design and implement a five-year mental health plan for their 50,000+ students. I also run and facilitate sexual education events for university students, and I’m currently designing a package of wellbeing talks for students in university residential colleges! Next year I’ll start working at The Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney.
“Like any true Gemini, my passions are endless. I’m really passionate about social and emotional wellbeing. In the Western world, we speak about ‘mental health’, but I really like the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander model of social and emotional wellbeing, which encapsulates mental health while acknowledging the other dimensions that make us feel whole. I also love speaking to young people and running events to help them have safe and satisfying sex, in a way that’s inclusive to people of all genders and sexualities – and fun!
“I’m currently reading The Illness Narratives by Arthur Kleinman. He’s a remarkable psychiatrist, who has written a lot about the way that patients experience illness and the health system. I don’t think we learn enough about that in medical school, to the detriment of our patients and our relationships with them. This year has been very illuminating for me because my interactions with the medical system have all been as part of the patient party, taking college students up to hospital. It’s helped inform the kind of doctor I want to be, and I’m doing as much reading and listening as I can to help with that journey!
“I’m always listening to podcasts. Bobo & Flex is a definite fave for personal growth, while Tiddas 4 Tiddas elevates the stories of Aboriginal women, and then NPR’s Planet Money is like a documentary in my ears – I love it.
“I’ve been blessed with the presence of remarkable women throughout my life. My grandmother was a fearless trail-blazer fighting for gender equity – within medicine and society. I wish she was alive to see me continue her legacy today. My mother is a brilliant clinician and surgeon who role-models the kind of doctor I want to be; as a supervisor, she fought for better conditions for her trainee doctors, including access to maternity leave. My godmother is also an intellectual powerhouse and fierce advocate for social justice, but she deepened my emotional connection to myself, and others. All three women impact me every day, in different ways, and I could not be more grateful for their continual impact in my life.
“I want to learn everything and anything. At the start of this year I decided I wanted to learn about dinosaurs! I hope I never stop learning.
“Self-care means more than face masks and bubble baths, contrary to what the commercialisation of the wellness industry would have you believe. It’s about recognising and enforcing your boundaries and about (gently) reflecting on your own areas for improvement.
“My driving force is understanding people, and using that information to uplift, and create a positive impact – be it in medicine, social justice, or just daily interactions.
“Outside of work I love to laugh. I prioritise activities that make me laugh, and remind me not to take myself, or life too seriously.
“The future for women is intersectional, and harnesses the power of diversity. We can lift each other up when we examine our own biases and privileges, and seek to be better allies to people whose lived experience is not proximal to our own.”
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