SBS Hindi

I got my zeal for community work from my Gandhian father: Smita Shah OAM

SBS Hindi

Prof Smita shah

Prof Smita Shah received the President's Award from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand in 2011. Source: Supplied by Prof Smita Shah


Published 14 June 2022 at 5:13pm
By Vrishali Jain
Source: SBS

Professor Smita Shah received the Medal of Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2022 Queen's Birthday Honours for her service in community health, which spans over three decades and centres on reaching out to vulnerable youth.


Published 14 June 2022 at 5:13pm
By Vrishali Jain
Source: SBS


Prof Shah, who serves in the Western Sydney Health District, was born in Tanzania into a Gujarati household.

One of her earliest childhood memories is observing her "Gandhian" father treat Maasai patients.

Prof Smita Shah Childhood
Prof Smita Shah in Arusha, Tanzania with her family at the age of seven. Source: Supplied by Prof Smita Shah


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Prof Shah tells SBS Hindi she decided to be a doctor and work for the community at the tender age of five.

"We grew up with stories of Mahatma Gandhi in our house. I always thought if Gandhiji can do it, so can I!" she says with a laugh.

Supplied by Prof Smita Shah
Prof Smita Shah at the age of seven and her family with erstwhile Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. Source: Supplied by Prof Smita Shah


When Prof Shah first finished her studies and returned to Australia, she says her parents wanted to marry her off to a suitable man, but she chose a career instead.

"I landed a good job in Sydney in pediatrics, and that was that," she says.

She later gained a master's degree in community health and credits her husband for playing a key role in the direction of her career. 

Prof Smita shah
Prof Smita Shah with husband Ralf Itzwerth. Source: Supplied by Prof Smita Shah


Her work centres around communication with youth about health concerns related to asthma, vaping and drug use.

Prof Smita Shah
Prof Smita Shah working with SEWA Rural, for the school community in Jhagadia in 2020. Source: Supplied by Prof Smita Shah


Prof Shah also volunteers with the development organisation SEWA Rural in her paternal village of Jagadiya, in Gujarat, India, to spread the word about healthy living.

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