Antony de Castella's reflections on the team's anniversary

It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago that I arrived for a second interview, sweating profusely all over my new suit after a run from my
broken down car a few kilometres away, for the exciting position of research assistant under Associate Professor Jayashri Kulkarni. My mother identified and passed on to me the advertised position and having just completed eight years of continuous study for my undergraduate degree in psychology/psychophysiology, on top of my general nursing qualification, this was to be my first serious job! Not realising Associate Professor Kulkarni was female, my preconceived stereotype resulted in a brief shock when I walked in for my first interview! When I was subsequently offered the job, I felt ten foot tall, and while I thought this would be a great job for a year or so until I was ready to continue my studies to become a counsellor, little did I know that this job would profoundly change my career trajectory and result in lifelong friendships and experiences, memories and opportunities, for which I will always be eternally grateful and humbled. Working with Jayashri and soon after joined by Paul, I quickly became impassioned about the importance of the research work we were conducting and I would repeatedly tell my close friends I had found my dream job! 

Over the ensuing 20 years, Jayashri, Paul and I, along with the countless research staff and students who have come and gone (or stayed), have been through incredible highs, many lows and frustrations, many late nights, occasional all-nighters, a few political battles, and countless hours of strategic planning, problem solving, dreaming and scheming, but all in the name of improving the lives of people affected by mental illness. To work with outstanding minds such as are possessed by Paul and Jayashri, as well as others at MAprc, and to be involved in research that impacts on patients and the clinical and scientific fields on a global scale, is nothing short of awe inspiring.

My own role evolved, in parallel with MAPrc, and the challenges of recruiting patients into trials and maintaining GCRP and data quality have been largely replaced with the even greater challenges of managing complex and usually insufficient budgets, dealing with personnel challenges and attempting to give our wonderful staff and students the resources and infrastructure needed to allow them to do their best. By its nature, my role now extends from day-to-day operational minutia to supporting Jayashri and Paul in mapping the strategic direction of MAPrc through the complex and ever changing landscapes of both mental health and
research/academia to ensure we remain not just viable, but a contributor to the answers that so desperately need to be found for those
who suffer these devastating mental illnesses.

 

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