Alumni Rising Star of the Year: Dr. Nirja Joshi

This month we celebrated our alumni community with the 2023 Alumni Gala Dinner! The glamourous affair saw the announcement of our Alumni Award winners, one of which was the lovely Dr. Nirja Joshi.

Nirja (MSc Healthcare Practice 2021) was recognised as a Rising Star of the Year for co-founding The WorkWell Doctors, an organisation improving workplace wellbeing for NHS staff. A key way Nirja champions positive wellbeing incorporates her dual identity as a dance teacher, using physical expression to promote health, positive body image, and self-care. We wanted to know more, so caught up with Nirja after the event.

When did you learn that you’d been nominated? How did that feel?

I was notified by the University of my nomination, and was truly grateful to learn I had been shortlisted. It was an achievement alone to even be considered amongst the group who had been nominated, everyone was so accomplished in their own field and to be in the same category as these incredible individuals was astounding.

Now that you’ve had time to reflect on your win, what does it mean to you?

To be considered a Rising Star has made me feel so proud of what I have achieved thus far. Given that a lot of what I have done has been during the pandemic, I haven’t had time to stop and reflect about how much change we have been trying to make with The WorkWell Doctors. I have been doing my work with dance for health for a few years now, and it is amazing to remember how significant the impact of this is to people. 

How was the experience of returning to CCCU as an alumnus?

Now this is a funny one… I’ve never been to CCCU!! My entire time studying was during the pandemic, and I was not able to attend my graduation, so attending for the Alumni Gala Dinner was the first time I had been to the University and met my lecturers outside of a screen!

What did your journey to attending University look like?

I attended medical school after A-Levels, but I was grateful to be able to undertake my postgraduate studies with CCCU as a qualified GP as part of a fellowship to help up-and-coming healthcare leaders. The studies allowed me to learn alongside my work as a GP which would have otherwise been very difficult to do.

Why is the work you do with The WorkWell Doctors so important?

Through The WorkWell Doctors, we identified a need for understanding wellbeing in the workplace. We spend so many of our waking hours at work, and try to shoehorn ‘wellbeing’ into our personal time.

A lot of stress and anxiety comes from within the workplace, and we wanted to see a change. We wanted to see integration of these tools and ideas into workplaces, so people can feel good at work, enjoy their work, and be more productive, while hoping to improve staff retention and reduce sick leave.

It’s a win-win for employees and management. These problems are rife within the healthcare service, but through our work, we have learned that workplace issues are perhaps more universal than we had thought. Thus far, we have delivered 90 workshops, starting with the NHS but now including international and corporate audiences, which was very surprising for us!

How did you discover your passion for dancing?

My favourite question. Those who knew me in my early school days knew that I would always relish a chance to make up a dance routine or adopt something from Top of The Pops (you must remember there was no YouTube, so to learn a dance, you had to have really keen eye to pick up the moves whilst it was on TV!). I danced as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award which really lit my passion. At medical school, I joined and choreographed routines which won us trophies at national competitions. As a doctor, dancing fell by the wayside, but I was grateful to be given an opportunity to teach alongside working, and I’m so grateful for having a creative and physical outlet for the stresses and strains of daily life! My belief is that everyone can dance, so I try and inspire as I go.

What action can we all take to look after their own physical wellbeing?

My mantra is ‘something is better than nothing’. Sometimes we have an all-or-nothing approach to fitness, such as “I go to the gym”, or “I do yoga”, but if you don’t, then you consider yourself to be inactive. My suggestion is, find something you love, try something new, and it doesn’t have to be in a gym environment, any movement is good movement! Always remember how exercise makes you feel and not just the goal. 

Where can people find out more?

Some things people may be interested in are:

TEDXNHS is where you can follow along to a Bollywood dance routine. I love bringing dance to new audiences, and you can see the energy of the crowd!

Royal College of GPs dance video is a resource I created in the pandemic to help people stay active at home, it’s a quick 10 minute taster of some dance fitness to get your heart racing.

In this podcast we talk about all things breast cancer as well as how to check yourself. 

In this podcast you can hear more about stress and workplace wellbeing.

This TV excerpt covers all things stress!