Vinod Chellaram: From Student to Director

Vinod Chellaram still has his cheque from his first time working at Northern Health. It was summer holidays in 2004, in between his studies for his second pharmacy degree.

The cheque was for the princely sum of $293.80, but the experience he gained at the Northern was priceless.

“I kept getting challenged more and growing more as the organisation was growing,” Vinod says.

Two years before that, Vinod had migrated from Egypt, only to discover his degree wasn’t recognised here and he had to start again.

When an internship came up at Northern Hospital shortly thereafter, he jumped at the opportunity, and was able to work and gain experience in different roles. Vinod quickly moved up and continued working his way through the organisation.

“At one point, I was responsible for the education of the pharmacy department, so for seven years I was educating all the new interns coming into the pharmacy,” he says.

“After that I became the Senior Oncology and Haematology Pharmacist, responsible for all chemotherapy across the four sites.”

Another four years went by and Vinod moved up to Deputy Director of Pharmacy and in July 2018, became Acting Director.

15 years after Vinod first stepped through Northern Health’s doors, he was appointed Director of Pharmacy.

Vinod says the culture and environment are what has kept him here for all these years.

“For a lot of us, this is not just a job, this is the hospital where we come to when we’re sick – or when our family and friends are sick, so it doesn’t just impact on our work, but beyond,” he says.

Looking to the future, Vinod sees pharmacy as a key area for growth.

“At the moment, we’re probably more of a supply and clinical function, but I think pharmacists and their training would make for good project managers,” he says.

“We need to focus on keeping more patients at home, rather than coming into hospital.”

So how does keeping patients staying well at home impact on pharmacy?

Vinod explains a lot of the medication provided to our patients are not available to them at their community pharmacies. They can only be obtained from the hospital because of the special nature of prescribing them.

He would like to see programs for our patients to get their medication from their community pharmacy or advice from their GP.

“The pharmacy in the hospital could start running education programs for the community pharmacy about how to manage those patients better. We can look at how we address those patients at home rather than coming to hospital every time,” he adds.

“Community pharmacies could play a big role in the education but also the awareness of the side effects and how to manage it at home, which minimises patients being readmitted.”

Vinod says in his time at Northern Health, he’s seen dramatic growth and development.

“When I started, there were only about five wards – A, B, C, D and E!”

“We’ve also had an increase in people from surrounding suburbs wanting to work here – we’ve become more popular and word has gotten out about the care we’re giving, as well as the support we’re providing,” he says.

“I think the culture is similar to before – it’s just become more diverse – but it’s a family type culture.”

As a Bundoora local, Vinod sees firsthand how the work of Northern Health impacts the northern suburbs community.

“Our work is not just for eight hours, and it affects the quality of care directly. We’re not just doing this for the sake of it and then going home, we’re actually making an impact.”

Congratulations Vinod!