Actions speak louder than words : Western Sydney Local Health District’s Professor Smita Shah receives esteemed OAM

Clinical Professor Smita Shah OAM is known at Westmead Hospital for her work in education and prevention, and her innovative approach to youth engagement with healthcare in Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

As a full-time Community Physician and the Director of the Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU), her work includes award-winning programs that have been running in schools for more than 15 years – and have benefited over 50,000 students.

Acknowledging the success of these programs, this year Smita was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her work in community health.

And with a career at WSLHD spanning over 40 years, it’s no wonder Smita’s contagious enthusiasm for her work has been recognised on such a prestigious national level.

It’s fantastic that my passion for education and research in the community has been recognised. My parents, who arrived in Australia from Tanzania in the 70s, would have been very proud.

Professor Smita Shah

Smita has primarily focused on prevention of non-communicable diseases, such as asthma, obesity and respiratory issues, through health leadership programs for high schools and university students.

She is particularly passionate about working with disadvantaged communities, and is currently working on a WSLHD project about the impact of e-cigarettes on young people.

“The concepts of empowerment, diversity and equity are strongly represented in all the work we do in our team,” she said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the executive of WSLHD for their ongoing support.”

As an OAM recipient, Smita says the significance of this achievement is not just about acknowledging past work, but the opportunities this hopefully opens up for the future.

“It gives me a wonderful platform to be able to highlight the work we are doing in prevention in the community and schools,” she said.

“We work in partnerships with schools, universities and with a range of organisations including general practitioners’ associations to deliver evidence-based prevention programs and interventions to improve the health and well-being of young people.

“By delivering evidence-based programs to the community and reducing inequity, we are empowering youth to be agents of change.”