Alumna, author and Junior Doctor, Roopa Farooki has been listed three times for the Women's Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted for the Muslim Writers' Awards, the DSC South Asian Literature Prize and the Impac Dublin Literary Award. She received the John C. Laurence prize in 2013, in recognition of her multicultural writing, and has been awarded an Arts Council Award. Her books have been published internationally and translated into several languages.
Roopa’s novels often feature characters from non-traditional backgrounds. “I'm really interested in otherness, the things that make us different, as well as everything we share,” she explains. “I wanted to write about characters who experience being different, and build understanding, by making them the centre of the story.”
'The Cure For A Crime', from her Double Detectives series, was featured in the BookTrust Top Books for 2020 list. The series features BAME heroines, with scenes based at St George's. 'Diagnosis Danger', the second book in the series, was released in January 2021. Roopa says of the book, “I think a story where the young are brave and caring enough to protect the vulnerable is really relevant to what we are all going through now.” Roopa was inspired by her family to write the series, and adds, “My twin girls helped me through medical school. They inspired me to write a story about brave, brown girls who save the day and solve crimes with their medical-know-how. I think that doctors and detectives and writers have something in common. We all want to know what makes people tick, and we work that out by following the clues.”
Roopa was awarded the Junior Doctor Leadership Prize in 2020. She says, “I was really proud to be nominated for the award by the consultants I'd worked with, and then to be awarded it by the Trust. We'd all worked so hard together throughout the pandemic, and I was glad that my work had made a difference, especially by putting in place a new ward round strategy to minimise infection risk to our staff and patients.”
Alongside her role as a Junior Doctor, she is an Academic Tutor in Creative Writing at the University of Oxford, and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. Speaking about balancing her different roles, she says, “I think if you enjoy everything you do, it doesn't feel like work. Writing is just a natural part of my day for me, like eating or sleeping. I think I write because I must, and so I always found a few minutes to write at the end of the day, especially after a horrendous shift; it's cathartic, and feels more useful than crashing in front of the television, or doom-scrolling online.”
“I try to be as present for my family as I can, I leave work at the door, and don't do my own projects until the children are in bed. And I've tried to encourage my Oxford Masters students as much as I can; they sometimes feel their work in the Arts is less relevant, but I strongly feel that while doctors save lives, the Arts make life worth living. It is how we learn to empathise, and are entertained in our lonely homes; their work is important to us all.”
Roopa is currently working on a non-fiction illustrated series of books about the body for younger readers. She is also writing a memoir on mortality, motherhood, medicine and grief, written in the early stages of the pandemic, which will be released by Bloomsbury Publishing later this year.
Reflecting on her time at St George’s, she says, "I learned so much there, not just about being a good doctor, but about really understanding what matters to patients, beyond their signs and symptoms. St George's taught me how to care for the whole person, and I use these lessons all the time. I really think it's the best medical school we have, although I guess I would say that!"
Asked if she has any advice for current students, Roopa adds, “There's never a perfect time to do what you want, so don't wait for it - just go for what you're really passionate about! It doesn't matter if it's too soon, or too late, the important thing is that you've tried.”