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Avisak: Building a cancer research career in Adelaide

After 14 years working as a surgeon in Bangladesh, Avisak wanted to pursue a research degree overseas. 

When he came to Adelaide, he found world-class facilities and a supportive supervisor who encourages him and his cancer research career.

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Avisak, who has travelled to more than 25 countries, says Adelaide is a beautiful, well-organised city. 

He says it feels charming to live here and looks forward to seeing South Australia’s famous pink lakes.  

We spoke to Avisak about his journey in Adelaide so far.

How did you come to study abroad in Adelaide, Australia?

I’m a surgeon from Bangladesh. I’ve been in cancer surgery for the last seven years. 

I knew I wanted to go abroad to research breast cancer, but I didn’t know where I would do my PhD.

When the World Health Organization began warning about a global pandemic in late 2019, I thought if I wait too long to hunt for a PhD supervisor, the borders might be closed.  

I could sense this pandemic might go for a long time, and I felt I had to jump now, or I might not be able to go.

I decided to apply for a course I could get into right away. That’s why I enrolled in a Master of Health Services Management at the University of South Australia

I arrived here in February 2020 to begin my studies and started writing to PhD supervisors.

Why did you choose Adelaide?

I had a desire to do my PhD in Australia, and I always emphasised Adelaide. 

I’ve travelled to more than 25 countries, and I know Adelaide is one of the most liveable cities. 

That attracted me to South Australia. 

I knew I wanted to go to a city that is one of the most liveable.

Tell us about your time studying at the University of South Australia?

The last year studying at the University of South Australia was amazing. 

The teachers are so professional and skilled. 

They have a genuine interest in the subject and the students. 

Many of us in the course were doctors, pharmacists or physiotherapists, and not from a health business background.

Although I didn’t finish the entire master’s degree because of my PhD, I completed one year of the course and earned a Graduate Diploma in Health Management Services.

How did you find your PhD path?

I’m interested in research about non-genetic causes of breast cancer. 

When I was searching in the literature, I found a professor at the University of Adelaide working in this field. 

She was interested in my proposal and, because I was in Adelaide already, invited me in for a chat. 

We discussed and thought we could be a tremendous team. 

Now, from this year, I have started my PhD with this supervisor.

How have you enjoyed your PhD research so far?

My supervisor is encouraging and supportive. 

Whenever I have a problem, she helps me. 

I’ve already been involved in hospital activities at one of Adelaide’s major hospitals. 

I think the diagnostic and academic procedures are excellent in Australia. 

And the health system is one of the best.

What do you hope to do when you finish your PhD?

I expect it will take until 2025 to complete my PhD. 

I have a plan to steer my future into the academic or research sector. 

I’ve spent the previous 14 years working as a clinician in Bangladesh. 

I’ve gone through several specialisations, including a fellowship in surgery in India, and have done a master’s in public health.

Now I have an opportunity to do global research looking at what else might cause breast cancer outside of genetics. 

I’m keen to continue to a post-doctoral fellowship. 

The detail of what field I will focus on depends on the outcome of my PhD research. 

There are so many facilities here to do more research and work in my area. 

I have a desire to continue my livelihood here.

Describe what life is like for you in Adelaide.

I am very fond of Adelaide. It is such a beautiful, well-organised city and It feels charming to live here. 

I’ve visited a few wonderful places here, including Glenelg Beach

I have many friends from my previous course and know other doctors from Bangladesh in Adelaide. 

We’ve been on picnics at Port Noarlunga and visited places like Monarto Zoo and Victor Harbor.

I love food, travelling and photography and always take beautiful pictures of the countries I visit. 

I have a desire to visit the pink lakes in South Australia. I want to see how the water can be pink. 

I visited the Black Sea in Turkey and couldn’t understand how the water could be black. 

Now I want to see how the water can be pink.

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