2019 Fiji Sun Person Of The Year 1: Giving Up The Good Life In Australia Or A Life Of Service At Home

In 2016, at the prime of her life and career in Australia, Dr Krupali Tappoo, 35, had to make a monumental choice. Stay and advance her career in medicine and
31 Dec 2019 19:05
2019 Fiji Sun Person Of The Year 1: Giving Up The Good Life In Australia Or A Life Of Service At Home
Dr. Krupali Tappoo Sai Prema Foundation Fiji Sai Sathya Sai Sanjeevani medical centre in Suva . Photo: Ronald Kumar.

In 2016, at the prime of her life and career in Australia, Dr Krupali Tappoo, 35, had to make a monumental choice.

Stay and advance her career in medicine and enjoy the trappings of life Australia had to offer.

Or return to Fiji and use her expertise to help the underprivileged and the needy.

Motivated by her passion for service and love of Fiji, she decided to move back to the country in February of that year.

An opportunity presented itself at Sai Prema Foundation Fiji. That was the catalyst.

The foundation is involved in a number of impressive charitable programmes that looks after the welfare of the underprivileged and the needy from free medical and health services to meals.

Dr Krupali Tappoo (MBBS, FRACGP, Dip. Child Health) now runs her own general practice at TappooCity Medical Centre at TappooCity, in Suva City.

She is also Director of Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Medical Centre at Nasese, Suva, the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeeva Heart Screening Centre and the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Children’s Heart Hospital Fiji. The hospital, now under construction, is scheduled to be opened next April by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama on his birthday.

She is the medical coordinator for the foundation.

Dr Tappoo is a general practitioner with a special interest in women’s and children’s health. She has a fellowship in general practice from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners with vast experience in hospitals in Australia.

She has returned to the land of her birth to “give back to the motherland.”

Dr Tappoo has not forgotten her roots. She is from the well-known Rathod family of Suva. She is married to Sumeet Tappoo, a renowned Bollywood singer and international philanthropist. Mr Tappoo is the eldest son of Mahendra Tappoo, the foundation’s founding trustee and chairman.

He is also a foundation director.

He and Dr Tappoo have two girls – aged 11 years old and 15 months old.

Moving back home

Despite the higher standard of living, health and medical care in Australia, Dr Tappoo made up her mind to head home.

While weighing up her options she said: “Part of me was still reluctant because I’ve always wanted to live in Australia.

“I wanted to work there and it would be good for my daughter as well. It was not an easy decision.

“But then when I looked at what I can contribute towards and how much difference I can make in helping Fiji, it was a no brainer.

“This is the country that has brought me up. I have used the land, the air and the water. It was time to give back. I came back in 2016 to serve the people of Fiji.

“At Sai Prema Foundation Fiji we believe that children of today are the future of tomorrow.

“To invest in a child is to invest in the future. We have a huge focus on congenital heart disease which is a defect in the heart that a child is born with. If the child has the appropriate surgery, they will live a normal lifespan.

“Hence as a foundation, we opened a free paediatric cardiac screening centre to diagnose children with congenital heart disease and we have been involved with our ‘Gift of Life’ project whereby children have been given a new lease of life after having free surgery through our international team of medical professionals.

“I feel so blessed to be an integral part of this project.”

Service is synonymous with her life. Ever since she was a little girl growing up in Suva she learned it from the family.

Her parents had a garment factory and restaurant/catering business which they built from a humble beginning.

Dr Tappoo says their foundation experience has helped them to become more selfless.

“We all get caught up with our own lives and think only about ourselves and our families. This whole experience has made all of us more selfless where the focus is to think about others before thinking of ourselves. The motto has been to love all and serve all.

“As congenital heart disease was identified as a need the foundation is currently building the South Pacific’s first children’s heart hospital. With construction underway a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone into the project with a number of people working day in and out to make this dream a reality.”

She says the foundation’s work is being done by a small core group of members with the assistance of volunteers.

She adds that the Medical Centre is providing free service and was built by the Foundation.

There is a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health whereby the ministry is assisting the Medical Centre staff on basic medications and consumables. The hospital will also provide all services and surgeries for free.

In her personal life she recognises the support of her family without whom she would not be able to do everything. She is grateful to God, the driving force behind everything.

She believes that quality health care is the right of every person on this earth and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as the Sai Prema Foundation Fiji have embarked on a mission of providing not just quality, but compassionate care to help transform the lives of people.

“The Sanjeevani Medical Centre provides free and quality general medical consultations and medicine to the underprivileged and needy. The Children’s Heart Screening Centre, the only one in all of South Pacific, focuses on providing free screening for congenital heart disease in children.

“The soon-to-be-opened Sanjeevani Children’s Heart Hospital will be the only hospital in the South Pacific providing free surgeries for children with congenital heart disease.

“This will save the lives of thousands of children in Fiji and the Pacific who are inhibited by inaccessibility and affordability of getting treated. This hospital will give them and their parents a new ‘Gift of Life’.”

At the moment Dr Tappoo is living and breathing the works of Sai Prema Foundation. Despite her extremely hectic work schedule in her own private clinic, she takes time out to actively supervise and manage the Sanjeevani Medical Centre.

She is also doing part-time teaching at the Fiji National University as assistant professor in the family medicine programme. She is constantly motivated and supported by her husband, in-laws, parents and foundation members. Even her 11-year-old daughter, Saisha, is a part of many activities, she says.

“It is important for her to learn to love everyone and serve everyone,” Dr Tappoo said.

She is confident that the future is bright and the foundation’s work will continue to expand. She believes that over a number of years the hospital will operate at full capacity. She is excited about building local capacity so that our local doctors, nurses and support personnel are trained in the field of paediatric cardiology and surgery. Her vision is to see our local doctors as cardiac surgeons, cardiologists and nurses all at the forefront of this hospital.

She firmly believes in the words of Walt Disney “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”.

“This hospital will provide the gift of life to so many children of Fiji and the South Pacific. I am confident that more and more people will come up and join hands with us and be a part of this project,” she says.

“I am grateful to the Government of Fiji for donating the land on which the medical centre and hospital sits today. Without this, we would not have been able to build a project of this magnitude.

“It requires key stakeholders to be a part of this and it gives me great confidence that we have been working with the Ministry of Health in our various projects such as the health on wheels rural outreach programme and also our Gift of Life project.

“We have a memorandum of agreement with the Ministry of Health with regards to our Sanjeevani Medical Centre and we endeavour to continue working with the Government of Fiji and the Ministry of Health.

“I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his support and look forward to the hospital inauguration on his birthday on the 27th of April 2020. The Sanjeevani Medical Centre was also inaugurated on the Prime Minister’s birthday last year.”

Climate change

On climate change, she said: “Sadly it is a reality of life. What gives her hope is seeing young people taking so much interest in climate change.

“Young people are telling their leaders that they need to act and not just talk about it.

“If we all start by only buying what we need and reduce waste, reduce the use of plastic, learn to reuse and recycle we can certainly make some progress.

“They are standing up for their rights on climate change.  They are telling leaders, you are taking our future away from us. You have to do something.

“We have to start from home, teach our children how they can contribute.”

Since her childhood, Dr Tappoo learned the value of hard work and education.

“I saw my dad and uncle work very hard. I think that when you grow up seeing hard work, you also learn that value,” she said.

“I also vividly remember my mother’s words regarding the importance of education – especially the education of girls and it was engrained in my DNA that if I was to get somewhere in life, I needed to get an education and had to work hard. I grew up in a household with five girls – two sisters and two cousins – and I’m proud to say that every one of them is educated and able to stand on their own feet and lead an independent life.

“I believe that my education has given me a voice – to stand up for what’s right and to assist those in need.”

In Australia, she had to sacrifice and work hard to pass her medical exams in the middle of raising her eldest daughter. She had to juggle her time between family, studies and work. But she got through. There was no question of failing.

“I have two daughters and hope to give them a good education and good values,” she said.

“People in Fiji are fortunate that education is free. However, I feel that children need to be more appreciative and work hard.

“The right to education is the right of every child and there is no excuse for any child to not attend school in Fiji. I understand that there can be many distractions such as drugs, alcohol, bad company but if the focus is to achieve something in life then these can certainly be overcome. Of course, a good education gives us the capacity to earn a living but beyond this education can be used to help others in need.”

She believes that the basic needs of all humans are the same – food, water, clothing, shelter – and there is enough in this world for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. Dr Tappoo says there is such a huge disparity in the world between the rich and the poor but if we all learned to give a little more than what we need there would be no poor people in this world.

The words of Albert Pine resonate in her mind: “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world, remains and is immortal.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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