Ideas for a brighter future for all

In Conversation with Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM

In Adversity's Face

In partnership with HOTA, Home of the Arts, Griffith University’s A better future for all series continues with Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM joining Kerry O’Brien


Critically injured in a traffic accident while still a medical student more than a decade ago, Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM has broken more barriers than most people even face in a lifetime. 

Queensland’s first quadriplegic medical intern and graduate, Dinesh is now a senior resident doctor at the Gold Coast University Hospital and Senior Lecturer in Griffith’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. A Griffith graduate and Queensland’s 2021 Australian of the Year, he is also a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. 

As co-lead researcher on the University’s BioSpine physical rehabilitation project, he has made himself a willing subject in work that seeks to make everyday life better for patients with spinal cord injury, and even see them one day walk again. There is still much to be done, of course—but, for a man as seasoned at tackling big challenges as Dinesh, the future is looking brighter every day. 

Griffith University is delighted to welcome Dinesh as our guest for the next instalment of our event series, A Better Future for All, at HOTA, Home of the Arts, on the Gold Coast. Join host Kerry O’Brien as he and Dinesh delve into the good doctor’s extraordinary life and work, in what promises to be an evening of insightful, emotional, and candid conversation. 

Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM

Doctor. Lawyer. Academic. Advocate. Queensland’s Australian of the Year. 

All these words—and more—could be used to describe the extraordinary individual that is Dr Dinesh Palipana OAM. But, for all the Griffith University graduate’s many accomplishments, there’s one term that continues to shadow him, even as he works to overcome it: quadriplegic. 

While studying for his Doctor of Medicine in 2010, Dinesh was involved in a serious accident that left him without feeling or movement below his chest. Despite this life-changing event, Dinesh never lost his resolve to complete his degree.  

After a period of recovery in his home country of Sri Lanka, he returned to Griffith to finish what he started, becoming Queensland’s first quadriplegic medical intern and graduate in 2016.  

In just five years, he has become a senior resident doctor at the Gold Coast University Hospital, and was recently made a Senior Lecturer in Griffith’s School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

As an adjunct research fellow at Griffith’s Menzies Health Institute Queensland, he is co-lead researcher on the University’s BioSpine physical rehabilitation project. Using electronic muscle stimulation and a brain-connected computer interface, the groundbreaking project seeks to help restore motor function for patients with spinal cord injury to ultimately see them walk again. 

Already holding a law degree before he became a doctor, Dinesh has made a lifelong habit of high achievement.  

He is the co-founder of Doctors with Disabilities Australia (DWDA), which works with the Australian Medical Association to improve access to education and employment for medical professionals with disabilities. Despite his busy schedule, he also finds the time to work with the Gold Coast Titans Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) team. 

Among it all, Dinesh has developed a growing reputation as a vocal advocate and activist. Alongside his work with DWDA, he has appeared at events such as TEDx, and was a witness to the Disability Royal Commission on equitable treatment for people with disabilities. He has also collaborated with Griffith to introduce two new scholarships and provide support for ongoing spinal cord research.  

A multi-award winner, Dinesh has been nationally and globally recognised for his work, complementing this year’s state honours with major achievements including Junior Doctor of the Year, the Henry Viscardi Achievement Award, and a Medal of the Order of Australia. 


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