Norhawa Bee Mohamed is the Head of Government Relations and Patient Advocacy at Astrid Dispensary & Clinic. She was also the inaugural CEO of ScriptWise, a non-profit patient advocacy organisation dedicated to prevent the harms associated with prescription medication overdose and addiction.
To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
Currently, I am the Head of Government Relations and Patient Advocacy with Australia’s first female-led dispensary, Astrid. I have spent the last 10 years in public policy, with a focus within the health sector. I completed my Undergraduate and Postgraduate in Political Science (with an interest in Public Policy), as I have always had an interest in making a positive change for society.
My previous experience includes working with a national peak body in the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS in 2012-2015) and the inaugural CEO of a patient advocacy in addressing the harms around pharmaceutical drug misuse and overdose (2015-2019).
What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Since moving to Byron Bay/Bundjalung country, a day in my life is getting up at sunrise (cuddling my beautiful Cavalier as this is very important self-care), meditating for 15 minutes and occasionally, I will practise gratitude to start my day off.
Followed by 10-15 minutes movement – it can be stretching, yoga and/or a quick run depending on how my body feels. I usually spend two hours in the morning for myself, as I am mindful of ensuring that I maintain self-care in what I do, ie. advocating for patients.
While most of my work is done remotely, I prefer going into our Byron store as it is a beautiful space and I am able to continue speaking to patients to understand any barriers that they may face.
On a usual working day, most of my time is usually spent on drug driving laws and supporting patients who are impacted by these unfair laws. I work closely with Members of Parliament in relevant States who are trying to amend drug driving laws so patients are no longer subjected to the nationwide drug screening tests that are done in Australia.
Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes, my current role allows for flexible working and this works perfectly towards my life and routine. When I first joined Astrid as one of the first hires, we were growing so quickly and we were all so passionate that it was sometimes hard to have work-life balance. And now, I am finally able to now have more of a work-life balance.
I have learned that rest and self care is so important to me and my job. When I take the time to replenish, it allows me to serve our community from the overflow. As they say, you can’t serve from an empty vessel!
I quickly learned that I needed to set an example for our community who have been through so much within the healthcare system, that they can also get to a place where they are supported and have access to tools to lead a better quality of life.
What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance or integration, is something I have been working on for many years. I have a tendency to devote my entire life to a cause, an organisation and at times, have given up my ability to live my life as I become fully invested in what I do.
I was raised in Singapore, and if anything, the work life balance discussion barely exists where I come from. Work becomes everything and your entire identity, and in a way, I feel like I was previously conditioned to function this way.
However, in working at Astrid especially, I strongly believe that I cannot be in this space, advocating for patients and better legislation in the healthcare system, if I am not looking after my mind and body. Furthermore, I strongly believe that if we are working in the space of wellness and/or healthcare, it is important for me to set an example and embody the values that I wish for others to have.
In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
In the past 12 months I have managed to stop waking up with caffeine/coffee. I have been able to wait 2-3 hours from when I am awake to have coffee. I even went through a period of not having coffee, as I was well-aware of how it was so ingrained in my routine.
Our body is dehydrated when we wake up, and I was mindful that waking up with coffee first thing in the morning is not ideal. I have been able to get into a routine where I have a glass of warm water (with a squeeze of lemon) when I get up, and get a coffee when I get into work.
In addition to this, moving to Byron Bay to assist with the second Dispensary here, which focuses primarily on walk-in patients, has allowed me to have a better routine in place too.
Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I am going through a journey of looking internally and working on self-consciousness, and currently listening to podcasts and reading books that are enriching me with the right knowledge. Favourite podcast is Know Thyself, by Andre Duqum.
This podcast is a deep dive into perennial questions of life, and he interviews spiritual leaders, doctors, creators and storytellers. I highly recommend him! As I am writing this, I am heading to Bali and will be reading The Passion According to G.H by Clarice Lispector.
Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
Currently, I cannot live without my journal. I have enjoyed journaling this year and writing again, something that I have been trying to do consistently over the last few years. I recently invested into a copy of Our Daily Purpose, and it provides guidance to how I journal too.
Another app that I can’t live without is the Wombat app, which is a breathwork and somatic activation app. I have been meditating for a couple of years prior, but recently went through anxiety that became crippling again. I realised that I needed a meditation app that could help me bring awareness to both my physical and mental health, and Wombat has been great for this.
As for products, we recently launched an online wellness shop at Astrid with so many beautiful plant-based products, and my personal favourite is the Ceremonial Cacao from Sacred. It was my coffee substitute when I was trying to give up on coffees !
If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
It would definitely be Aubrey Marcus, as I have been following his journey over the last few years and I would like to hear more about how he has been able to stay true to his values so strongly
Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
My last thought is the importance of people having a work life balance or integration when they are serving others. I have learnt that taking care of others, starts by taking care of yourself first.
I have friends in the social work sector, working in crisis support and the trauma that they are exposed to on a daily basis is challenging, and I do feel that it is important to have tools in your life when you are working with complex clients.