It’s more than a job, it’s my vocation

From an early age, growing up in a large happy family in peaceful Nepal, Counties Manukau Health psychiatrist Dr Shishir Regmi knew he wanted to practice medicine.

“There wasn’t a practising doctor in my family but I was inspired by our local doctor who cared for our community. He worked hard, never turned anyone away and genuinely cared for his patients,” says Dr Regmi.

When Dr Regmi applied to study medicine in Kathmandu, there were only 28 vacancies per year in a country which at that time had a population of about 16 million. A brilliant student, he was awarded six out of the seven gold medals available for graduates.

“When I decided to specialise in psychiatry, there were only 12 psychiatrists in Nepal. There was strong social stigma around mental health, even among my family and friends, and only a few people wanted to work in this field. I felt it was a good chance to bring change to people’s lives.”

He had to go abroad for his specialist training as Nepal did not have any such programme. However, after completing his postgraduation studies he went back to Kathmandu, served people in remote areas, worked in clinical leadership positions, established a psychiatry postgraduate course in Nepal and helped normalise and destigmatise the conversation around mental health by writing a weekly column in Nepal’s national newspaper.

All changed for him in 2002 when the Nepalese civil war, which had started in 1996, dramatically escalated.

“I never wanted to leave Nepal; it was a very painful and difficult decision, but my wife and I wanted to raise our two children in a safer place.”

That’s when Dr Regmi moved to the UK and worked as a Consultant Psychiatrist and later as a Clinical Director with the NHS UK until his move to New Zealand in 2018. He was awarded Membership and Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and also received five NHS Clinical Excellence awards while in UK.

In November, it will be two years since Dr Regmi started working for our Te Rawhiti Community Mental Health team. He is also Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Auckland.

“The team at Te Rawhiti is one of the most exceptional and diverse I ever worked with. I get attached to my team and my patients so I would like to work here for as long as I can.”

“After 30 years of practice, I’m still passionate about my field. In mental health we treat the whole person. You have to consider biological, psychological, social and spiritual aspects and weave these together.

“It is still fascinating to me – every patient has a different story and you have to treat them in their own unique way. And you are part of this story to make them feel better.

“It is my vocation – I feel refreshed and energised after seeing a patient.”

Dr Regmi encourages young people to consider a career in mental health. “Together we can help people have a better life.”

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