Ranjana Srivastava: Writing to reach youBMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l441 (Published 06 February 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l441
Ranjana Srivastava, 44, is an oncologist who works in the public health system in the state of Victoria, Australia, specialising in elderly patients. The daughter of a physicist, she had a peripatetic upbringing: born in Australia, she was schooled in India, the UK, and the US and qualified in medicine at Monash University back in Australia. Her main objective, laid out in a series of books and in columns in the Guardian, is sustaining trust between doctor and patient with honesty tempered by empathy—a sentiment strengthened by the loss of twin sons in the womb and by a patient who berated her for failing to make clear how poor her prognosis was. “When she dumped me as her oncologist I was dejected and humiliated,” she says, “but eventually I figured out one can never be too sensitive or too nuanced when having these conversations.”
What was your earliest ambition?
To be a diplomat.
What was your best career move?
Winning a Fulbright scholarship to complete a fellowship in medical ethics. It taught me a different way of thinking, which eventually made me a writer.
What was the worst mistake in your career?
Taking too long to acknowledge dissatisfaction and hoping that things improve.
How is your work-life balance?
Very good—and I must constantly remind …