Tuesday 5 July 2022 4:40pm
Dr Aqeeda Singh loved every aspect of working on the research, something she attributes to the support she received from all three supervisors.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed the door to placements overseas for students in their final year of medical school, it opened another door for Dr Aqeeda Singh, who made the most of the chance to pursue her love of research.
Dr Singh, who graduated from Otago Medical School last December, had been working on research projects since her second year of medical school and was excited to be able to spend one of her sixth year three-month rotations doing research.
She is now working as a junior doctor at Wellington Hospital and has just had her research paper, ‘Doctors’ travel in the Anthropocene’, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
“Research just adds an entirely different purpose to what it means to be a doctor. I’ll definitely continue it.”
She says it’s an incredible feeling to be listed as lead author on the paper, which is a study of the impact of the travel done by hospital-based senior doctors for the purposes of continuing medical education on greenhouse gas emissions at district health boards.
The topic was suggested by her research supervisor Dr Jesse Gale from the Department of Surgery and Anaesthesia at the University of Otago, Wellington, who had developed the idea with colleagues Associate Professor Caroline Shaw from the Department of Public Health and Jay Hadfield, the Capital and Coast District Health Board’s Principal Sustainability Advisor.
“I thought it sounded like a great topic. My generation in particular is quite concerned about the future and our children, so doing research on this fit very well. It was a really timely topic and I thought, ‘of course, I’ll do this’. It was just an amazing opportunity.”
Dr Gale says Dr Singh has a lovely style and impresses everyone with her intelligence and hard work.
“She's done so well for her stage of career, she will surely go on to great things."
She has already been listed as lead author on a number of journal articles, including a paper on smartphone-based ophthalmoscopes published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in 2020; an evaluation of an inexpensive method of conducting binocular indirect ophthalmoscopy published in The Open Ophthalmology Journal in 2021 and a paper on the prevalence of glaucoma among 45-year-old New Zealanders published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in April this year.
In 2020, she was chosen as the inaugural recipient of a $5,000 project grant from medical technology company oDocs Eye Care. The award was in recognition of her continuous achievement the previous year and the high number of high-quality research papers she had published.
Dr Singh says she’s grateful for all she has achieved, and attributes much of her success to her research supervisors.
“Without my supervisors I couldn’t have done any of it. I owe a huge amount to them.”
Dr Singh worked on her latest research project remotely from her flat in Dunedin, and had weekly Zoom meetings with her supervisors in Wellington. She enjoyed being able to base herself in Dunedin, after being away on rotations in Timaru and Gisborne during the year.
“It was really nice to come back for a little bit of time in Dunedin and just be with my flatmates and do the research from there,” she says.
She loved every aspect of working on the research, something she attributes to the support she received from all three supervisors.
“They were all absolutely phenomenal. I couldn’t have asked for better supervisors.”
Dr Singh, who grew up in Masterton, was Dux of Wairarapa College in 2015, and was awarded the 2016 Alan MacDiarmid Scholarship to help with her study in Health Science and Medicine at University. She was only the second female to receive the award since it was first offered in 2002.
She is keen to continue doing research as she progresses in her career, saying it adds another way of contributing to the field of medicine.
“It just adds an entirely different purpose to what it means to be a doctor. I’ll definitely continue it.”
Dr Singh speaks highly of her experience studying medicine at Otago, enjoying her time in Dunedin, and the opportunity to work on a rural medicine placement in Alexandra and in provincial centres Timaru and Invercargill.
This year, her first as a junior doctor, she’s appreciated being back in the lower North Island, and having the chance to catch up with old school friends in Wellington and Masterton.
“I did my first three months of this year working in the community in Masterton, so I was very happy about working there and seeing old faces. I worked in the skin clinic and did a bit of skin surgery, and also a bit of work in the urgent care clinic and in palliative care, so there was a huge variety.”
She is keeping her options open in terms of her future career in medicine. She has a strong interest in ophthalmology and is putting in extra effort to join eye clinics while working on placements.
For now, though, she has her eyes on a well-earned break and will be using her next three month rotation to visit her family overseas, who she hasn’t seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
She’s excited about the chance to see her Dad Sippy, her Mum Lovely and twin brother, Vishwas, who all now live in Sydney, and to visit her paternal grandmother Gurpal, her maternal grandmother Harbans and her maternal grandfather Kishan in Punjab in India.
Dr Singh says all of her grandparents and her Mum are academics and lecturers themselves, and have a mixture of PhDs and Master’s degrees between them. “I take inspiration from all of them for doing research.”
She is dedicating her work to her grandparents, but in particular to her paternal grandfather Sohan, who died during the pandemic.
“I wasn’t able to go and see him before he passed, which is partly why I’m taking so much time off now to go and see my other three grandparents. He was always counting down to attend my graduation, but unfortunately he passed away three months before it.
“He has always been a huge motivating factor for everything I do, including my research.”
- Kōrero by Cheryl Norrie, Communications Adviser at the University of Otago, Wellington.