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Meet Dr Vinay Lakra, the first Indian president of Australia’s peak psychiatry body

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Dr Vinay Lakra

Dr Vinay Lakra (R), the President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). Source: Supplied by Dr Vinay Lakra


Published 9 June 2022 at 10:57am
By Natasha Kaul
Source: SBS

Dr Vinay Lakra, a Melbourne-based associate professor, made history when he was appointed president of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). He is the first RANZCP president of Indian heritage.


Published 9 June 2022 at 10:57am
By Natasha Kaul
Source: SBS


Dr Lakra stepped into his new role in May last year to serve as the RANZCP president for a two-year term.

He became a RANZCP fellow in 2007 and prior to the new role he was elected to the role of president-elect of the RANZCP from May 2019–May 2021, during which time he chaired the RANZCP Members’ Advisory Council and Audit Committee.


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Highlights:

  • Dr Vinay Lakra graduated in medicine from JN Medical College, India, in 1999.
  • Dr Lakra's areas of interest and expertise include leadership and management, clinical governance systems, patient safety and quality, and assessment and training standards for doctors
  • RANZCP, a peak body representing psychiatrists in Australia and New Zealand, is responsible for training, educating, examining and awarding the qualification of Fellowship

Dr Lakra graduated in medicine from JN Medical College in India in 1999 and then completed his MD in psychiatry from the Central Institute of Psychiatry (India) in 2002 before moving to Australia in 2004.

"It all began in Ranchi [northeast Indian city] when I was working as a senior resident doctor, I saw many of my colleagues going to Australia," Dr Lakra told SBS Hindi.

"Initially, I just wanted to explore a new country, work in their well-equipped health system, acquire those international skills for some time and then return to India to settle down," he said.

Dr Vinay Lakra
Dr Vinay Lakra is currently based in Melbourne. Source: Supplied by Dr Vinay Lakra


Instead, Dr Lakra decided to settle down in Melbourne and practice his medical skills after joining as a fellow specialist of RANZCP. 

His areas of interest and expertise include leadership and management, clinical governance systems, patient safety and quality, assessment and training standards for doctors, and supervision and mentoring of junior doctors and early career psychiatrists.

He also continues to be involved in clinical practice in general psychiatry including electroconvulsive therapy. 

Dr Lakra said he drew upon his own experience to become involved in streamlining the assessment for overseas psychiatrists in Australia in a bid to help them progress in the training pathways.



"I wanted to assist overseas medical practitioners in the psychiatry field. Basically, help those who come here and struggle with the examination process or have no clue about what level of exams are conducted," Dr Lakra said.

"Today there is a lot of information available for these overseas doctors which can be used as a guide for these assessments," he said.

Under Dr Lakra's leadership, the body has begun implementation of a Rural Roadmap, developed resources and policy positions on suicide prevention, and initiated action to support and advocate for the role of clinical academic psychiatry. It is also working on introducing a new Diploma of Psychiatry.

Back in India, Dr Lakra was keen to become a surgeon but then changed his aspirations after realising how the psychiatry field lacked specialists.

"The place I belong to is a rural area near Delhi and surgeons were the most respected ones," Dr Lakra elaborated on why he wanted to pick surgery initially.



Apart from improving several aspects of this psychiatry field in Australia, Dr Lakra today wants to work with Indian Australian doctors and see how they can contribute back to India.

"The virtual world has become a key part of our lives and we can do a lot. Under my leadership, I would like to strengthen ties with Indian medical bodies, hold webinars and also see how to build training capacity in the area of mental health," he added.



"We have initiated work to ink an agreement with an Indian medical body... that work is in progress," he disclosed.  

Commenting on the role of the Indian Australian community in addressing mental health issues, Dr Lakra said the culture of collectiveness and help is an inherent asset and must be utilised to resolve the issue.

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