Dr Vanessa Atienza-Hipolito : Running a Breast Care Practice and Reaching One’s Potential
by Dr Renée Ralph, Co-Founder, The Brilliant Foundation
AUSTRALIA - Sixteen years ago, Dr Vanessa Atienza-Hipolito came by herself from the Philippines with only 30kg of luggage and 7kg hand carry bag to start a new life in Perth. She had to borrow money from her sister for her air ticket to Western Australia. In 2005, she bumped into Glenn Hipolito at Plaza Arcade Mall who proposed to her later that year.
In 2014, she acquired ownership of Women and Breast Imaging (WBI) business together with her husband Glenn. WBI is a boutique breast imaging centre based in Cottesloe. It is a 40 years old business, the first in Australia providing breast imaging service in private practice. It is the only private imaging centre in Western Australia sub-specialised in breast imaging.
In the field of medical sciences, Vanessa chose health breast care. She was particularly interested in this field because Breast Imaging and Intervention specialty is a unique niche.
Vanessa recognises there is a lack of education and expertise in this field. Currently, there is a lack of breast health and imaging awareness and as an Asian women culture, she sees her practice as a calling – helping women. She says symbolically: "I am honoured and privileged to be of service to the women of Western Australia.”
Vanessa is very passionate in educating General Practitioners and women with regards to their breast health. She says: "It is rewarding to talk to patients and see happy tears when you tell them they have no breast cancer or when they say they appreciate the personalised breast care service provided. It is heart-warming to talk to women after their breast cancer diagnosis and the gratefulness received for saving their lives.”
Speaker: Breast Health and Wellness Awareness Campaign. FACE WA. The importance of breast screening and technological developments. Bayswater, WA. October 2019.
Speaker: Breast Imaging Update. The Importance of Breast Screening and Technological Developments. “Health, Your Superpower” 100 Women Event. Hyatt Regency, Perth. February 2020.
RSNA 2019 Chicago USA with leading international experts in Breast Imaging Dr Daniel Kopans and Dr Paula Gordon
Before COVID19, Vanessa represented Australia as an expert Breast Radiologist at the largest International Radiology Conference in Chicago. She was one of the speakers together with the international leading experts in Breast imaging, who are authors of many Breast Imaging books and international research articles with Dr Daniel Kopans, Havard Medical School and Dr Paula Gordon, University of British Colombia.
Millennial Achiever Award presented by Filipino Australian Club of Perth Inc (FACPI) during Philippines Independence Day Gala Night. The Crown Towers, Perth WA. June 2019
Dr Renée Ralph: "Vanessa, coming from the Philippines, how has your life been working in Western Australia and making Perth your home?"
At Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital
Vanessa: "As an immigrant doctor, it has been challenging to find a training position due to competition against local trainees. I was blessed that Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital offered me the training position as fellowship position in Vascular and Interventional Radiology 16 years ago. It was my stepping stone to study and train overseas."
My first born and working at Princess Margaret Hospital
Vanessa: "After having my first born and taken a few months maternity break, I was fortunate to be offered a short-term advanced trainee position at Princess Margaret Hospital. As a new mum, it was heartbreaking to meet sick kids and distressed parents. It gave me a lot of anxiety and sadness to see their sufferings and illness. It was personally disturbing at that stage of my life because my eldest was just 3 months old at the time. I was then offered a 2-year training position in Breast Imaging at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Royal Perth Hospital. Since then, I met a lot of consultant radiologist who supported my preparation for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR)."
College exams and night shifts
"During almost 5 years of training and studying in preparation for the college exams, I have to manage my time to do on-calls working night shifts, weekends and public holidays while being a mum and wife. I am very thankful and grateful for the support of my husband Glenn Hipolito, my mum and my in-laws who looked after my family especially my kids during the busiest and challenging stage of my life."
Subjected to 10 years moratorium
Vanessa shares: "After passing the college exam and being a qualified Fellow of The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Radiologists (RANZCR), another challenge was looking for a job. According to the Australian Government Department of Health, I didn’t realise at that time that as an immigrant doctor, we are all subjected to a 10-year moratorium which means we are only allowed to work in a district of workforce shortage. This means that I could only work in remote areas until I complete my 10 years here in Australia."
Working in remote areas in Western Australia
Vanessa had to work in remote area in Western Australia to fulfil her role as a junior radiologist.
"Global Diagnostics which is now Apex Radiology (Australia) gave me the break and opportunity to flourish as a junior radiologist. It gave me the opportunity to travel in remote areas like Bunbury, Kwinana, Mandurah, Esperance, Kalgoorlie and Northam. It sparked my interest in interventional procedures. I fly or drive to remote areas these sites to perform joint and spine procedures which I truly enjoyed."
After completion of her 10-year moratorium, Vanessa was given an opportunity to work locally at WBI and BreastScreen WA.
Balancing Family Life and Work
On balancing family life, Vanessa explains: ”It is challenging to balance work and family. I am thankful and grateful that I have a very supportive and loving husband.” She is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at Curtin Medical School, Curtin University and University of Western Australia Medical School. Vanessa describes herself as a passionate, hardworking and goal-oriented person. She says: "I am thankful and grateful that I know my mission and that I love what I do and I know I do it well. I love to teach and share my time and knowledge with the students.”
Vanessa is a practising Catholic, she shares: "I believe that my work is my destiny and I prayed for every mini and major milestones in my life, studies, work and family.” In her busy life as a doctor with her breast care practice, Vanessa makes time to sing in the church choir weekly with her husband, Glenn playing the keyboard or piano. It binds the family, children and her community spiritually – it also allows Vanessa to reset and clear her mind for the week ahead.
San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir at St Mary’s Cathedral
San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir at St Mary’s Cathedral
Corporate Women and Stay-At-Home Mum
On her perspective on corporate women and women who decided to stay home and have a family life, Vanessa respect both corporate women and stay-at-home mum. She states that being a stay at home parent is not an easy task. Every person has a role in the community whether at home or at work.
FIVE Tips of Wisdom for Today’s Generation – in reaching your potential
1. Put Your Heart in Your Mind and Soul
Vanessa believes: "Every person has a potential to be great and to achieve their dream job and goal. One should be persevering. You could achieve anything if you put your heart, mind and soul 101% of the time.”
To manage all aspects of one’s life, Vanessa’s says “Aim to be 1% better version of yourself. Daily personal development. Practice self-care.”
2. Read and Up skill
Vanessa loves reading personal and professional development books and audiobooks. She attends webinars on professional and personal development session. For instance, she recently attended career advancement and leadership skills for women in healthcare online course last year.
Her favourite authors are Rhonda Byrne, Hal Ehrod, Melinda Gates, Jeff Olson, Robin Sharma, Maggie Dent.
Currently she is reading High Performance Habits by Brendon Bouchard, From Boys to men by Maggie Dent, Atomic Habits by James Clear, The Greatest secret by Rhonda Byrne, Act like a leader, Think like a leader by Herminia Ibarra. (all audiobooks)
3. Apply Oneself
She likes taking action every day to apply what she has learned from her book readings and webinars. For instance, collaborating with other leaders at The Brilliant Foundation and not-for-profit organisations like 100 Women, Ladybird Foundation, Pink Hope.
4. Get Fit and Keep Well Mentally
Being physically fit provides clarity to Vanessa’s day. When the weather is good, Vanessa rides to work from home and back. It is an amazing start to the day to have a dose of endorphins and seeing patients and interacting with her team. When cycling home from work, it provides the mental break to focus on family life and cooking dinner. Vanessa says that exercising and keeping fit offers wellness and mental health.
In recent years, she has participated in Ironman 70.3, triathlon, marathon, half marathon, running, cycling, gym strength training and conditioning, open water swimming and tennis. She loves singing, dancing, choir singing and the simple things in life like watching the sunset.
5. Connect and Give Back to Community