Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Why I am a doctor

This is based on an interview I did for a cover story for Heal India magazine.

1. Why did you choose to become a doctor ?

Medicine is a service profession and I decided to opt for medical practice because this provides an opportunity for direct patient interaction. The emotional income in medical practice is unmatchable – and it’s a great feeling when patients thank you changing their lives by giving them a baby !

2. How easy or difficult was the transition from residency to practise ?

I have always enjoyed academics and won over 20 gold medals during my medical training. I continue to read medical journals and present papers at medical conferences, which means we are at the cutting edge of medical technology. In fact, our IVF clinic is more advanced academically than most departments of OB/GYN in teaching hospitals in India, because none of these offer IVF treatment. The Professors here only know and teach the theory while we actually do IVF in real life ! Yes, I do miss teaching medical students and residents, because interacting with juniors and young students is a lot of fun. This is why, instead of teaching medical students, we focus our attention on teaching our patients – which can be a lot of fun academically, as patients ask a lot of very intelligent and stimulating questions which keeps me on my toes ! I feel we have been able to get the best of both worlds in our clinic!

3. What drives you ?

I like getting up in the morning because I know that I can help to improve the life of my patients by giving them a deeply desired baby ! I love exploring new technology – both in the IVF lab; and Information Technology. This is why I am an angel investor in startups which deliver technology to doctors to help them improve the care they provide to patients !

4. Are you satisfied with the academic framework that we have in India ?

No – I think it can be improved a lot ! I feel academic departments in teaching hospitals have become outdated and stale. They do not have access to the latest technology, because of funding constraints. I feel it’s a crying shame that so–called teaching hospitals in India which provide postgraduate training in MD for gynecologists do not teach their residents how to do IVF because they do not offer IVF treatment for patients ! This is very sad – doesn’t Family Planning and Welfare also mean helping infertile couples to have a baby ? IVF is not expensive – and I feel that a Dept of OB/GYN which does not offer IVF in this day and age should not be recognised by the Medical Council of India. How can a gynecologist who has never seen a single egg collection during his residency consider himself to be well equipped or qualified to practice OB/GYN today ?

5. There is mass migration of medical students ? Why so and how can
this be curtailed if not contained.

The Brain Drain has always been a fact of life . After all, in a capitalistic society, bright students will look for the best opportunities for themselves , and there is no reason why they should restrict themselves to India. I do not think that trying to curtail this by making residents sign bonds is a good idea. It makes far more sense to provide young doctors with stimulating opportunities to practise high quality medical care in India, so they no longer feel the need to go abroad. In reality, most students who migrate to the US are just blindly following the herd mentality and being quite short sighted. For the bright medical students, India offers the best opportunities in the world today. We have a young and growing population – and for ambitious doctors who are willing to work hard, the sky is the limit. I often feel sorry for my classmates who have settled in the US – my quality of life is far better than theirs !

6. What inspired you to set up a clinic ? How do you find it different from others already existing ones ?

Most IVF clinics in the world are free-standing ambulatory care facilities. After all, infertile couples are not “sick” and do not need hospitalization. By operating an independent clinic, we offer a much higher quality of customized and personalized care to our patients, without all the hospital red tape. Not only is this much better for our patients, it’s much better for us as well. We provide a very cost effective service because we do not have any hospital overheads – and we do not need to give the income we earn away to the hospital management.

7. How do you envision..... (heart / cancer/ fertility,,,,) hospitals/ centres in India in days to come ?

I feel we will see a boom. Specialty hospitals ( between about 50 - 100 beds) , which are focused on a particular specialty are the best way of providing high quality medical care. They are focused factories – and can prove to be centers of excellence !

8. How do you divide the time between medical practice and academic
preparations ?

I feel this is a very artificial distinction. All practise is based on theory – and a good doctor needs to be proficient in both ! I learn by reading about my patient’s problems, so I can provide them with the best possible solution for their problem. By converting the theory ( in medical journals and text books) into practice, we remain at the cutting edge of both !

9. Combining medical practice and academics or on the job learning - which of the two do you think is preferable.

I think all good doctors will agree that the only way to learn medicine is by actually treating patients ! The only real learning which occurs in medicine is at the bedside – so all medical learning has to be on the job ! As Sir William Osler put it so eloquently, “He who studies medicine without books sails an uncharted sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all.”
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