Pro Vice Chancellor Health Professor Sheena Reilly said Griffith’s Health Group was delighted to welcome Dr Palipana on staff.
“Dr Palipana was the first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland and the first person with a spinal injury to graduate as a doctor in Australia,” Professor Reilly said.
“In yet another first he has joined the School of Medicine and Dentistry where he will teach students in the Medical Program and continue his research in the Disability and Rehabilitation program in the Menzies Health Institute Queensland.”
“As a recent Griffith medical alumnus, we are thrilled to have Dinesh contribute to the curriculum development required for the new medical program to be introduced in 2022,” Dean of Medicine and Head of School, Professor David Ellwood said.
“His unique and personal experiences of medical education at Griffith mean that he is ideally placed to help frame the new curriculum with a strong emphasis on equity and diversity.”
An excited Dr Palipana said the new appointment was for three years and followed previous opportunities to guest lecture.
“It formalises my affiliation with Griffith by splitting time between teaching, research and engagement as well,” he said.
“My responsibilities are going to vary. For instance, yesterday I taught some dermatology to students.
“There is also a medical legal aspect to the school as well and I’ll be getting a bit more involved with that, mixing the legal and medical side of things.”
Dr Palipana has a law degree as well as a medical degree.
He was honoured with the 2020 Queensland Australian of the Year award and awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2019.
He is a founding member of Doctors with Disabilities Australia and also works part-time at Gold Coast University Hospital.
Last year, during the height of the pandemic, his advocacy work included appearing as a witness to the Disability Royal Commission.
He believes it uncovered more prejudices about people with underlying conditions and disabilities.
“We realised there are swathes of vulnerable populations who identify with disabilities and have compromised physiologies,” he said.
“The Royal Commission has already benefitted from hearing about Dr Palipana’s personal and professional experiences after he appeared at two public hearings and spoke passionately about people with disability and the challenges they face in a health setting,” Chair of the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, Ronald Sackville AO QC said.
“We look forward very much to the contribution he will make helping to ensure the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability are reflected in our inquiry and his invaluable leadership and advice will help inform the Royal Commission as it continues its important work.”
Important Griffith research Dr Palipana is co-leading with Dr Claudio Pizzolatto is also looking to improve the way those with spinal cord injuries are treated.
The BioSpine Project aims to make significant contributions to scientific advances in restoring function to people with paralysis.
“Imagine using your mind to drive movement in your muscles despite previously insurmountable obstacles like quadriplegia,” Dr Palipana said after the project secured a $2M grant from the Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC).
“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.”
The BioSpine team comprises researchers from Griffith University, University of Sydney, University of Canterbury and has attracted a key partnership with the world-leading U.S. institutions Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and Harvard University.