Dr Dinesh Palipana has been recognised with a global award for his work in advocating for people with disabilities.

He flew to New York this week to receive the prestigious 2019 Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, one of only ten people in the world to be honoured.

“Disability is a word that has lost its traditional meaning thanks to the life that Griffith has opened up for me”

“I hope moments like this will highlight the lead that Griffith takes in this area and I am grateful to be part of a university that is leading the way in transforming ‘disability’,” he said.

Dr Dinesh Palipana (L) in New York for the ceremony.

Vice Chancellor Professor Carolyn Evans said Dr Palipana was a truly remarkable member of the Griffith community.

Dr Palipana’s research work into the rehabilitation of spinal cord injuries is transformative and his advocacy for people with disabilities, particularly those in the medical sector, is admirable.

“He is an inspiration to anyone with a disability and making incredible strides in improving opportunities for those who devastating injuries.

Griffith University is thrilled to have someone of Dr Palipana’s calibre as part of its research backbone as it strives to create a better future through significant, socially relevant research.

“Griffith congratulates Dr Palipana on this international recognition of his work and advocacy.”

Dr Palipana is a role model for both disabled and able bodied alike, with the drive and passion to make real change.

L-R Dr Dinesh Palipana, Professor David Lloyd, Dr Claudio Pizzolato and Perry Cross at the Biospine launch November 2019

Along with Griffith Research fellow Dr Claudio Pizzolato he is charging ahead with an inspiring program of research to return function to those who have been paralysed. The Motor Accident Insurance Commission recently awarded $2m to the innovative Biospine program, which promises to change the lives of those with debilitating disabilities.

As a quadriplegic since a car accident while in medical school, Dr Palipana has made every second count since he returned to complete his studies.

“Professor Harry McConnell and others from the School of Medicine were fantastic in communicating to me about how it could work if I came back to my studies and thoroughly supported me in my decision to eventually return to year 3 medicine in January 2015,” he said

While completing the remainder of his degree as a quadriplegic, Dr Palipana also co-founded Doctors with Disabilities Australia, with Dr Harry Eeman, a rehabilitation physician in Melbourne, the only other known quadriplegic to become a doctor in Australia; Dr Hannah Jackson, a GP with osteogenesis imperfecta; and Miss Jerusha Mather, an aspiring medical student with cerebral palsy.

He also works as an Emergency Doctor at Gold Coast University Hospital, combining patient care with his advocacy and research commitments.

The Henry Viscardi Achievement Award represents international recognition of his ongoing efforts to improve opportunities and access for all with disabilities.

“I am blown away to see the recognition of what we’ve tried to achieve,” he admitted.

“Griffith really is changing things, we are at the forefront of so many changes from a social and policy perspective.

Dr Dinesh Palipana and research partner Dr Claudio Pizzolato in the lab

“There are also significant barriers for medical students and doctors if they have a disability so its been about changing that.

“Along with Doctors with Disabilities Australia I’m working with the AMA to rewrite their policies related to medical students and doctors with disabilities and we are also starting to have impact in Specialist colleges as well.

“I’ve been working with a few other countries too. The UK, the US who are a bit further ahead in inclusivity in medicine.

“I have a platform to make real change and its happening. We are making it happen.”