The First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) is proud to announce Dr. Unjali Malhotra, Medical Officer, Women's Health, has been honoured in a new publication, “50 Under 50: Young and Aspiring Indo-Canadians" by Maneesh Media.
Dr. Unjali received the recognition in honour of all her extensive contributions to the health care profession.
Prior to joining the FNHA in 2017, some of her accomplishments include co-creating HPV and contraception programming while Medical Director of Options for Sexual Health; founding and becoming the Program Director of the University of British Columbia's Women's Health Residency Program; Chair of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of the Canadian Foundation for Women's Health; and serving on the Board of the Federation for Medical Women.
In 2022, Dr. Unjali testified before the Senate's human rights committee about the forced sterilization of persons in Canada. She also received national and international recognition for co-creating the consent form on coercion in the health care system.
Calling the honour a humbling experience, Dr. Unjali credits her success to her family and her ancestors. Both her parents experienced poverty after the violence and trauma of the Partition of India in 1947. That event saw widespread unrest that displaced millions of people.
Despite their displacement and impacts of colonization, both sets of her grandparents placed an emphasis on education. At a time when education for girls wasn't a priority, her maternal grandparents ensured all three daughters received an education.
Her parents both became doctors and eventually immigrated to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan via England. Dr. Unjali was born not long after her parent's arrival.
She says her family initially struggled in Prince Albert, being the only South Asians in the community and moving from one of most populous cities in the world with a subtropical climate to a rural Canadian prairie town. It was the hardships and struggles her family endured that drove Dr. Unjali to strive for her own successes.
Despite her family coming from a different culture and half way around the world, Dr. Unjali says her family was embraced by the Indigenous Peoples of her community.
Her parent's connection with the Indigenous community came from their ideal of collectively building community through service – her mother was the community's only obstetrician and her father the only pediatrician for over ten years. That sense of duty to the community was fully inoculated into the young Dr. Unjali.
She was born with a complex autoimmune disorder, and being the only South Asians in the community without a cultural support network, and the general lack of resources compared to larger urban centres – all that taught her grit – and that gave her the drive to never give up.
“Between the racism, personal and family hardship, you just keep going, there was no choice, what choice did we have?"
At the ceremony in Brampton, Dr. Unjali says it was humbling to meet the 49 other people being honoured. They come from a diverse background; musicians, chefs, lawyers, and educators. She says they were all amazingly supportive, kind, and honouring each other.
There was a special connection between them as many had similar family histories and the desire to honour the legacy of their grandparents by striving for excellence and community service.
“I'm fortunate that I'm educated and I have a voice. I am honoured that I can use that voice widely to support making a difference," says Dr. Unjali. “I feel supporting each other, communicating and leading with love creates change. I try to do my best every day to make an impact in a good way."
Dr. Unjali says she hopes her story will inspire others. That she, as a person of colour who came from humble roots and a small community, was able to achieve her professional success, then others also can, “but we need each other in doing so."
“Something I will always hold in my heart every day, are the people who have carried me along my struggles and my achievements. Know you have so much to offer and we should lift each other up," says Dr. Unjali. “We should always be open to supporting one another and passing on our successes."
More information about the “50 Under 50: Young and Aspiring Indo-Canadians" book can be found at Maneesh Media's website here.