Meet Dr Ketaki Sharma

07 March 2022
International Women's Day

Dr Ketaki Sharma is a staff specialist at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), whose role involves anything and everything relating to vaccines. She helps summarise the latest evidence on COVID-19 vaccines for the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) and occasionally for other countries in the region.

"I provide advice about vaccines to GPs, nurses and public health units and I’m carrying out research on the impact of immune-suppressing medications taken during pregnancy on maternal and infant vaccine responses. My favourite part of the job is giving talks on how amazing vaccines are!"

She became interested in this career path due to a fascination with the intersection of immunology, infectious diseases and public health. Also, being part of a team which works on problems from the level of an individual patient through to national policy decisions.

"I’m constantly learning and will never be bored. The future of vaccines looks very exciting."

Dr Sharma would like her influence in the workplace to be promoting self-care, since she always finds herself discussing it with colleagues and friends. She says, "This means supporting colleagues to only take on as much as they can manage and encourage people to speak up if they have too much on their plate.

"We’re all only human with finite daily capacity for intense cognitive work and we all need to give our physical and mental health equal priority to our job and family responsibilities. Easier said than done!"

When asked why breaking the bias is important, she says, "I read an interesting theory recently that imposter syndrome, which mostly affects women, isn’t the result of internal qualities like perfectionism, but is a result of repeated experiences of being subtly dismissed or not respected over many years, leading women to doubt themselves".

"The result is that women feel less worthy, underestimate themselves and sell themselves short. We need to break the bias to harness the potential of each person, regardless of their gender, colour, disability or sexuality."

She is working to achieve this by "Trying to say yes to things I don’t quite feel worthy of, to speak up more, apologise less, be my authentic self and to encourage female colleagues and friends to do the same".

Dr Sharma is inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s attitude towards work-life balance. During law school Ginsberg would stop studying at 4pm to spend a few slow hours with her daughter, which gave her renewed energy to work at night, writing “Each part of my life provided respite from the other and gave me a sense of proportion”.

"I relate to this and love how she frames working and having a family as enriching each other rather than being in conflict. This is the balance I strive for."

Her advice to other women, well she says, "I don’t feel qualified to give career advice (there is the imposter syndrome!) but I’d recommend career counselling".

"I had a few sessions before making the decision to leave clinical paediatrics and it was invaluable in challenging my assumptions, working out what I wanted my career and life to look like and strategising to be able to make that a reality."

Read more about some of the other inspiring women across Kids Research in celebration of International Women’s Day.

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