Arriving in Australia in 2003 for a one year working holiday stint after finishing his medical studies and junior medical officer training in the United Kingdom, Dr Rishi Kotecha didn’t predict he would go on to oversee the treatment of every child and adolescent with leukaemia in Western Australia.
One year turned into another, then another, and after making the decision to complete his postgraduate studies in Australia and build his career here, he unintentionally discovered paediatric oncology as his preferred speciality.
“I was working at Princess Margaret Hospital and during my training I was rostered to the paediatric oncology unit, which I found to be very heart wrenching and I thought, ‘this is not for me’. Then I got rostered to do it again and I started to see the patients that I'd seen the first time that were actually cured from their treatment.
“It was incredibly heart-warming to hear them tell me that I had had a massive impact on their life and that they'd remember me for forever. Even 18 years later, a lot of them still keep in touch, sending me photos and emails.”
The paediatric leukaemia specialist wears many hats in his quest to improve treatment for cancer patients. In addition to his statewide supervisory role as the clinical lead for all young Western Australian patients with blood cancers, he is a Consultant Paediatric Oncologist and Clinical Haematologist at Perth’s Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor in Curtin Medical School at Curtin University. He is also a member of the Children’s Oncology Group and the international BFM Study Group, which are responsible for the design and implementation of clinical trials for children with leukaemia worldwide.
Dr Kotecha is driven by a need to know more, which is fortunate for those under his care, and has seen him relentlessly pursue ways to improve treatment for children and adolescents with leukaemia.