Griffith University's 2021 Outstanding Young Alumnus

Doctor of Medicine

Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM is an emergency doctor living with quadriplegia and a passionate disability advocate dedicating his professional life to working, teaching and researching health.

In 2008, Dinesh began studying medicine—despite having a Bachelor of Laws—after his personal experiences with the health system helped him realise he wanted to be a doctor.

“I went through depression, anxiety and panic disorder and it was quite severe,” Dinesh said.

“Due to this I started interacting with the health system and it was through that experience that I realized that if I could do something for people that the health system was doing for me, then that would be amazing.

“It was through that I ended up finding medicine, and I've loved it ever since.”

Little did he know he would end up spending more time than most in the health system, after a catastrophic car accident in 2010 left him paralysed from the chest down.

“It was really the Griffith family that helped me get through everything after I had the accident and come back to become a doctor,” Dinesh said.

“I have a really deep relationship with the University and its people, Griffith is such a big part of my life.”

After taking time from his studies to go through rehabilitation, Dinesh returned in 2015 and graduated in 2016 with a Doctor of Medicine.

In 2016 he also completed an Advanced Clerkship in Radiology at Harvard University, where he finished with Distinction with Honours.

Dinesh was Queensland’s first quadriplegic medical intern and the second person to graduate medical school with quadriplegia in Australia.

“When I graduated and was registered to practice, the employing state health organisation was reluctant to give me an otherwise guaranteed internship,” he said.

“Eventually they did, and in 2018, I was awarded Junior Doctor of the Year at Gold Coast University Hospital before becoming senior resident in the busiest Australian emergency department."

In 2019, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia and honoured with the 2021 Queensland Australian of the Year award.

When Dinesh is not working at Gold Coast University Hospital’s emergency department, he is teaching Griffith students as Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine and Dentistry or researching as co-lead of the BioSpine Project.

“Imagine using your mind to drive movement in your muscles despite previously insurmountable obstacles like quadriplegia,” Dr Palipana said.

“BioSpine puts together some of the most promising advances in human history for spinal cord injury.

“We are using thought control, electrical simulation, and drug therapy in an attempt to restore function in paralysis.”

Disability advocacy is deeply personal to Dinesh and he is one of the founding members of Doctors with Disabilities Australia.

“To people with disability wanting to go into health, I say do it, because we need more people that understand and have lived experiences in the professions,” Dinesh said.

“Can’t is only a limit put to us by society. Disability is a social construct.

“We need you at the table.”

In 2020, Dinesh appeared as a witness to the Disability Royal Commission and in 2021 was announced as the Commission’s Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Senior Adviser.

He is also using his voice throughout COVID-19 to highlight the impacts of the pandemic on those living with disability and also rallied with Griffith University to help secure mandatory minimum accessibility standards.

Over the years, Dinesh has been awarded numerous accolades in recognition of his work and can now add Griffith Health 2021 Outstanding Young Alumnus to the list.

“Moments like these make you want to do better and it holds you to a higher standard,” he said.

“I feel so grateful for everything that I have and this award just makes me want to keep going.”

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