The King sisters’ challenge to become professors in their field

Dr Svetlana King and Dr Jovanka King both studied at Flinders University and while they have taken up different career paths their lives are still very much in sync.

Svetlana (BA/BEd(Sec)(Hons) ’09, PhD ’14) is the Research Manager at the Prideaux Centre for Research in Health Professions Education at Flinders. She began her undergraduate degree at Flinders in 2005 and continued to study at the University until submitting her PhD in December 2013.

Svetlana’s PhD examined the education and career pathways of African youth from refugee backgrounds. ‘Being able to work with elders and leaders of South Australia’s new and emerging African communities was an important accomplishment for me. It strengthened the quality of my research and ensured that my PhD would have a real impact in the community,’ says Svetlana.

Svetlana’s research was recognised by a Vice Chancellor’s Prize for Doctoral Thesis Excellence and in 2017 it was published as a book titled, Unfolding Transitions. ‘As part of my PhD I also developed a professional development resource designed to help schools and teachers identify support needs for African students from refugee backgrounds,’ says Svetlana.

With a career path in medicine, Svetlana’s older sister Jovanka (BMBS(Hons) ’07) also has a strong connection with the University. Jovanka is a Consultant Paediatric Clinical Immunologist and Immunopathologist, with roles in the Immunology Departments at Flinders Medical Centre and the Women’s & Children’s Hospital. She also works in Private Practice at AllergySA.

Jovanka says she wanted to become a doctor from a very young age, ‘I recall asking Father Christmas for a doctor’s kit when I was just four years old and my favourite childhood book was the Family Health Encyclopaedia.’

As busy as her three roles are, this year Jovanka will also complete her PhD undertaken at the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine and the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Her research focuses on strategies for screening newborns for primary immunodeficiency diseases, with the aim of identifying and treating affected infants as early as possible to improve their long-term outcomes.

During their time studying and working at Flinders, Svetlana and Jovanka have always had each other’s support. Svetlana says, ‘My sister is my best friend, she is an inspiration to me. Jovanka is a great role model for going beyond your comfort zone to achieve great things and while she is very accomplished, she also remains very humble and grounded,’ says Svetlana.

While they support each other’s career progression the King sisters retain the competitive spirit of sisterly rivalry, ‘Our current game of friendly rivalry is Who will become professor first?’ says Svetlana.

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