Dr Chandana Unnithan, a Master of Public Health and Master of Public Health Advanced Lecturer, has been working in the health and information systems sector for over 15 years.
Dr Unnithan brings relevant and valuable insights for developing a bright future in Public Health on a global scale. We sat down with Chandana to find out more about her passion for teaching, what motivates her, and see where the industry is at this point in time.
What motivated you to become a teacher?
I was inspired by my teachers, and life experiences working in the corporate business world and in the health sector.
What do you love the most about your job?
Making a difference to communities through real application of technologies and social innovation. My specialisation is in Health Informatics. Applying novel Information Communication Technologies (ICTs), in particular, mobile IoT and social media to engage communities and strengthening public health through participation/social innovation – is something that particularly excites me!
I am passionate about making a difference to communities through real application of technologies and social innovation.
What do you think the current climate is within Public Health?
The current climate is that of empowering and engaging communities to live long healthy lives, in harmony, in their own homes, making them responsible for their own health. We are in the process of building a ‘healthy nation’, promoting holistic health and preventing diseases as part of the sustainable development goals for 2030. For this agenda, we need to work together with all stakeholders in the communities. I am passionate about closing the gap with migrant communities as well as indigenous communities for public health projects. Specifically, by applying and leveraging technologies to health promotion, advocacy, systems implementations and managing health at all levels for every citizen of Australia.
What do you think Torrens is doing to answer these trends?
Torrens is evolving continuously. Being a new age university, it relates better to the current environment, students and responds better to challenges. It is a dynamic and evolving institution that builds and nurtures future professionals. It is doing this by engaging current domestic and international students in building a healthy nation, through a participatory approach, that engages them into communities. We are focused on building future professionals who are committed to building healthy communities in Australia.
Torrens is evolving continuously. Being a new age university, it relates better to the current environment, students and responds better to challenges. We are focused on building future professionals who are committed to building healthy communities in Australia.
What did you do before this position? Please tell me about your industry experience
I am a project management practitioner (and a member of PMI.ORG). I had worked with the ICT sector of MNCs (IBM) for 6 years in USA and Australasian region. In 2000, based on the project management experiences, I was invited to become a higher education faculty, at Deakin University Australia. The practical experiences were valued for the students to relate to the real-world projects. During 2007-2014, I was involved with pioneering implementation and evaluation of Mobile IoT projects in Australian public hospitals. These experiences were also translating into my teaching at varied universities, over the last decade.
Since 2011, I am associated with the expert group, Space and Global Health (within the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space). As of 2017, the committee is the largest of the general assembly of the United Nations. The expert group is a collaborative venture with members from multiple space agencies, WHO and other global health organisations, for supporting the vision of “One health” for sustainable development. In 2018, I was invited to the conference UNCOPOUS 55th Session held in Vienna.
I am a continuing panel member of IoT/wearable technologies on the Grace Hopper Celebration (Women in Computing Series) held annually in Houston, USA. (This group includes panel members such as Melinda Gates). I am also associated with Health Informatics Society of Australia, Digital Health Canada, and the Canadian Public Health Association in varied capacities. From 2016, I am on the global advisory board for Bridge for Health a coop based in Canada that is engaged with public health projects that engage with community, students and industries.
During your career as a teacher, could you share an experience which inspired you?
I could mention two experiences that inspired me.
One of them was a young domestic student, who had to go through many adversities including near failure due to varied reasons but was resilient. The student progressed to become the ‘Dean’s Merit Award’ recipient when she finished the degree.
The second student was a mature age, international student, who had also received recognition and distinction at the end of the degree, while coping with the grief of a dying father for over one year, and managing a full-time career.
Both of them at different ends of the spectrum (age, gender, experience, ethnicity, mode of study) – inspired me to become a better facilitator of knowledge, and made me feel good about the chosen profession i.e. making a difference in people’s lives through knowledge facilitation.
What was the best career advice you have ever received?
Never stop learning from anyone, or anything. Every day is a new opportunity to learn something new.
What career advice would you give to a student studying Public Health?
Treat your career as a profession and not a job. It is an opportunity to change lives positively.