An unexpected career change

Expat partner Shanika Anthonis had to press pause on her medical career while living in Vientiane. But undeterred, she’s stepped into another profession for the time being.

All ready to go…

“As the health system is less developed in Laos, I imagined there would be a demand for English speaking doctors but that wasn’t the case,” says Shanika, a mother of one and a general practitioner from Colombo. “Most expats living here will go to Thailand to access the healthcare in Bangkok, and, as I can’t speak Laotian fluently, I can’t communicate with local patients in Vientiane’s biggest hospitals.”

The search continues

“I didn’t want to be out of medicine for long. As a doctor, you always want to be practising to make sure you’re maintaining your knowledge and skills. So with my coach, we searched for private clinics and subsequently I managed to find a job at a French-owned clinic. But that’s when the pandemic emerged. As I was also pregnant and with many unknowns about Covid-19, I decided to quit.”

Exploring other options

“My coach was wonderful. She knew I wanted to keep busy and understood I wanted to do something related to medicine. We explored some study options, looking at subjects I could potentially specialise in and advance my career. But then I heard that the Australian International School was recruiting a science teacher. I had only ever taught as a sideline before, but as a trained doctor, I had the knowledge, so I thought well why not apply. I’m not a native English speaker so I just needed to get an IELTS certification, which my husband’s employer’s partner support programme helped me attain.”

A learning experience

“As it happens, teaching has been a perfect fit. Due to the pandemic, it’s all done online. My baby was born two months premature and I want to be very close to him. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in an emergency room for 12 hour shifts or even go to the school for an eight-hour working day. So I have a nanny working full time and while she takes care of my boy in one room, I am teaching in another. I must say it’s been a real pleasure to be teaching science to some wonderful teenagers. They’ve taught me a lot as well! So it’s been a great learning experience.”

Photo: Shanika with her family