Professor Shyan Vijayasekaran on expanding his possibilities

The recent renovation of his practice means Professor Shyan Vijayasekaran and his team can better fulfil their life-changing work.

  3 minutes

Professor Shyan Vijayasekaran’s practice, Perth ENT Centre, was bursting at the seams. It had started off with two surgeons 10 years ago—himself and Mr Tim Cooney. But “before long we were up to six or seven surgeons—so needed to expand and also make more efficient use of the space”, he recalls. The plan called for a near-total internal demolition and reconstruction of the existing building. The challenge—they had just two weeks to do it.

“We had to keep working, because if we don’t work, we can’t care for our patients,” Professor Vijayasekaran says. “We do have two smaller sets of rooms that we work out of, but in general, we mainly work out of one base site in Subiaco, so needed the work done quickly.”

While a rapid reconstruction of your clinic may sound intimidatingly fast, balancing and blending a series of challenging jobs seems par for the course for Professor Vijayasekaran. 

The evolving practice

Professor Vijayasekaran trained in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery in London and Perth, before completing a Fellowship in Paediatric Otolaryngology with Professor Robin Cotton at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, USA. He is one of the few international graduates of this prestigious program and was awarded the Charles Ferguson prize by the American Society of Paediatric Otolaryngology in 2005.

The origins of the Perth ENT Centre lie in the professional and personal friendship between Professor Vijayasekaran and Mr Cooney. “We both worked at the children’s hospital in Perth, are both married to ladies called Mel and have nine children of similar ages between us—so we know each other very well,” Professor Vijayasekaran says.

As the practice grew, they found they couldn’t take on any more patients themselves so decided to introduce other surgeons from different sub-specialties. “As a result, we needed more rooms, and also wanted to make the existing waiting room bigger and reconfigure the clinic spaces to make everything more efficient.” 

Keeping the balance

Balancing the demands of a growing business, academic work, private practice and research seems like a lot for anyone to handle, let along someone whose rooms are also being remodelled. But Professor Vijayasekaran is pretty sanguine about it.

“I know people always talk about this whole work-life balance thing, but I think everything’s interwoven,” he says. From a work perspective “the research, teaching and clinical work are all blended in together in my practice. So I often see patients with a medical student or a surgical trainee. We might mix clinical and bench research where we take samples from patients and analyse what we’ve found. So for me, the research, teaching and clinical service delivery are all part of one big melting pot, and don’t tend to be separate.”

While definitely not their only clientele, Perth ENT Centre focuses on children and adolescents. For Professor Vijayasekaran, the ability to help children holds particular appeal.

“In ENT in general, you change people’s lives because you help them breathe better, eat better, hear better, smell better, sleep better, and reduce discomfort whilst improving quality of life. All of those vital things that most people take for granted,” he says. “And in children you can transform their quality of life, their academic functioning, their mood and behaviour if you can fix the simple things.

The clinic’s revenue has taken a hit from the COVID-19 crisis, as have all practices, but Professor Vijayasekaran did get a chance to start planning new ways of managing patients and doing surgery—some of which he believes will continue after the pandemic has passed. “It’s been a challenging time but with lots of positives coming from it,” he says. “And maybe we will do things differently in the future based on what we’ve learned from COVID-19.”

 

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