Dr Umarajini Kannan was born in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, to Mr Ponnampalam Velauthar, RAF & Air Craft Engineer and Suppamma Velauthar. She spent most of her childhood in Sri Lanka and Chennai where she did her secondary school before moving to the UK. She lived in South-East London and completed her first degree in Biochemistry and chemistry at Queen Mary’s & Westfield College (University of London). After working at Lewisham Hospital as Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer (MLSO), she channelled her focus and determination into completing her medical degree which she completed in 2000 at University of Dundee.
Umarajini worked in the medical field until she decided to become a GP. She worked in East London where she was exposed to an increasing number of patients with Diabetes. She was further encouraged by one of her patients who suffered a preventable complication. She felt that if there was more awareness it would prevent unnecessary complications of Diabetes. Harrow has the highest prevalence of Diabetes in the UK and as a GP in Harrow, she decided to become the Clinical Lead of Diabetes in Harrow and the North-West London transformation lead. She was given the opportunity to improve the awareness of Diabetes by ‘London Tamil Market’ team in April 2019 where she was joined by colleagues, friends and family who helped her in successfully identifying patients at risk of developing Diabetes.
1 Which place, or city or country do you most feel at home in?
Even though I experienced lifestyles in South-east London and Scotland, I feel most at home in North-West London due to its diverse cultures, its interesting citizens and the feeling of security through our community.
2 What are your proudest achievements?
My proudest achievement would be completing my medical degree with the support of my family and friends and applying my biochemistry knowledge into Diabetes care in the community. My post graduate education has aided me in teaching and training the healthcare professionals to improve Diabetes care.
3 What inspires you?
My biggest inspiration is making a change in the world for the benefit of others and not yourself. I think that especially in our society today, acts of selflessness are effective in improving and building our future together.
4 What has been biggest obstacle in your career?
My biggest obstacles in my career would be changing from country to country to find a place where I felt safe and putting family before work. I think that my family are my biggest supporters in everything I do and they have helped me overcome this obstacle of putting work before family and helped me find not only a healthy work-life balance but a place that I could call home.
5 Who has been the biggest influence on your career to date?
I haven’t had a single role model, but my parents, family & friends have been my biggest influence. They always radiate positivity and encourage me to do better. I think that they are the reason for my success and I appreciate everything they have done for me.
6 What is the best aspect about your current role?
I think the best aspect about my role is being able to help to transform the care of people living with Diabetes in Harrow and North-West London. It also gives me the opportunity to meet new interesting personalities and expands my connections in the community.
7 And the worst?
There is no worst aspect to my role as it is a great privilege and honour to be the clinical lead of diabetes in Harrow and to improve clinical quality and efficiency within the NHS by reducing unwarranted variation in patients living with Diabetes in London.
8 What are your long-term goals?
My long-term goals are to make sure all the information about Diabetes reaches all patients of different races. Thus, reduces the devastating complications that can result from poor management of the condition, bringing health and economic benefits.
9 If you were Prime Minister, what one aspect would you change?
To encourage a healthy lifestyle (Diet & Exercise) from primary school through compulsory exercises (Drills) for 20 minutes in the morning and also physical education on a daily basis. This will prevent childhood obesity, improve mental well being and prevent future development of Diabetes & complications.
10 If you were marooned on a desert island, which historical figure would you like to spend your time and why?
I would take Mother Teresa as her primary task was to love and care for those whom no one was prepared to take care off.
‘Love cannot remain by itself - it has no meaning, love has to be put into action, and the action is Service’, by Mother Teresa.