In recognition of his contributions to the field of psychiatry, Dr Ravi Bhat has been bestowed with the prestigious becoming a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the general division.
It is in honour of his significant service to medicine, and to rural psychiatry.
The divisional clinical director of mental health services at Goulburn Valley Health and associate professor of psychiatry with the Department of Rural Health has demonstrated a commitment to his patients that has not only transformed lives but also earned him recognition in the King’s Birthday honours list.
“I feel very honoured,” he said.
“It’s not something that I was expecting… [but] very happy that working in a rural area has been recognised, so to me that is probably more important….. and we continue to work away at improving health for our rural communities,” he said.
Dr Bhat said the recognition was not only a personal triumph but also a celebration of all his colleagues.
“All of my colleagues and psychiatrists, they have chosen to stay here which is what makes a big difference.
“You know, once people decide, it’s worth staying here, then you can do something more [in mental health services] and move forward.”
He said the importance of mental health professionals in rural areas was paramount as the mental health burden in Australia continued to increase.
“Across Australia, about a third of Australians live in rural Australia, but only about one in 10 psychiatrists and a little more of mental health nurses live in rural Australia.
“There is a big disparity in terms of the impact on people’s lives with mental health illness and the availability of helping professionals,” he said.
Dr Bhat moved to Shepparton from India in 1999 with his family and said he was initially hesitant to take up the position of consultant psychiatrist at GV Health.
However, he said it was the local community that eased the transition for him and his young family.
“The [Shepparton] community was extraordinarily kind, in many ways there were lots of acts of generosity [from] complete strangers which was really nice.”
Beyond his endeavours in healthcare, he is a valued board member of Goulburn Valley Grammar School, a member of the Shepparton Art Museum and a supporter of local theatre arts groups.
“When I’m meant to think more about [the AM], I feel that it’s a recognition for working in rural areas, so I hope what this means is that more people think, yeah actually we don’t have to work in Melbourne, or in Sydney, we can work rurally and still get good things done.
“I hope it sends that message,” he said.