Name: Dr Dharmica Mistry
Job: Co-founder and Chief Scientist, BCAL Diagnostics
Age: 32 years
Arrived from England, 1992
I’m the Chief Scientist at BCAL Diagnostics, a company I co-founded in 2010 to develop an early detection test for breast cancer. I want to improve the ways in which doctors detect breast cancer in women, and overcome the limitations that currently exist. The test I’m working on is simple and affordable, is non-invasive and only requires a blood test. It will be available to women of all ages not just those within a high-risk category.
I’ve always loved science, and how it lets you have a go at impacting the world. I love what I do because I know I can change lives. Knowing the result and vision of what I’m trying to achieve gives me purpose in my work. It’s what pushes me to keep going even when I think I might fail, or it all looks too hard. My journey has been challenging because I didn’t know I was going to end up on this path, but my purpose keeps me motivated.
I was six years old when my family moved to Australia from England. My parents had never been here before so it was a brave decision to uproot our entire family to live in an unfamiliar country. We left all our relatives behind – grandparents, aunties, uncles, nephews and nieces. I also felt like I’d left a part of my cultural identity in the UK. The little things we took for granted were missing in Australia – the food we ate in England, the cultural environment and even the lingo I spoke and heard.
I was always surrounded by family while growing up in England. Once we got here, it was lonely and challenging to be on our own for the first time. Sydney in the nineties was so different to what it is now.
We lived in Sutherland Shire, my brother and I attended school there. There weren’t many other Indian families at the time so it was confusing being so Indian at home and Australian at school. Even my name sounded strange to my classmates. I didn’t feel confident enough to be Indian or openly celebrate Indian festivals because I spent my younger years trying so hard to be Australian. No one knew I could speak a second language until I was past Year 12.
Having grown up in a predominantly Caucasian culture has made me open-minded and broad in my thinking even though it was a confusing time for me then. You learn how to adapt while trying to find your groove. Now in my 30s, I’m embracing both cultures because I am comfortable with being different, being who I am and the diverse background that I come from.
What I love most about Australia is the lifestyle. We are in a wonderful part of the world with access to beautiful beaches, good education and work opportunities. It’s so multicultural now and a young, fun country. I feel lucky to be here.