As doctors in the country continue to put their lives at risk to help the country win the battle against the deadly Coronavirus, one cannot help but ponder over their long-standing contributions to the society.
On July 1, National Doctors’ Day, MAKERS India takes a look at the work of six women who have touched hundreds of lives with their hard work and their dedication for providing medical services to the most backward sections of the society.
Dr. Taru Jindal
In 2014, while working on a project for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mumbai-based gynecologist and lactation consultant Dr. Taru Jindal had a shocking realization of the abysmal conditions of maternal wards and labour rooms in rural Bihar. Her three-month stint in Bihar turned into two years and Taru brought about a medical revolution – she facilitated the construction of a labour room and an operation theatre in Motihari Hospital in Bihar; the hospital won the Kayakalp award in 2015. An MD from Sion Hospital, Taru also started a primary health care center in Masarhi, Bihar where she treated patients for myriad illnesses but the diagnosis of a brain tumour forced her to quit midway. She has also written a book titled ‘A Doctor’s Experiments in Bihar’ which has been published by Speaking Tiger. (Read more about her - How Dr Taru Jindal’s ‘Experiments in Bihar’ Saved the Lives of Hundreds of Pregnant Women)
Dr. Leela Joshi
With a postgraduate degree from the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Medical College in Indore, Dr. Leela Joshi started her career as an assistant surgeon with Indian Railways in Kota Rajasthan. She was also the State coordinator for ‘Mission Pink Health,’ an initiative run by the Indian Medical Association to promote awareness about health issues among school girls.
After retiring as the Railways’ Chief Medical Director in 1997, she took up the mission to provide free healthcare facilities to tribal women and children in Ratlam in Madhya Pradesh. (The district has had a poor track record in terms of maternal health indicators.)
Since her retirement, Dr. Joshi, (82) has been providing medical services related to pregnancy and anemia, and has earned the title of Malwa region’s Mother Teresa. Dr. Joshi was conferred with the Padma Shri this year and has also been listed among the top 100 influential women of the country in a survey conducted by the Department of Women and Child Development.
Dr. Tsering Landol
Access to proper health care facilities has always been mired in difficulties in the hilly terrain of Ladakh in India. The long-standing territorial dispute over Ladakh between India, China, and Pakistan has also been a major hindrance to the region’s development. Dr. Tsering Landol, who was born into an underprivileged family of six children in Leh, decided to bring about a change after she graduated with an MBBS degree from the Government Medical College in Srinagar in 1979. As the first gynaecologist of Ladakh, she has performed deliveries in sub-zero temperatures, not to mention the oxygen-deficient atmosphere in Ladakh. Honoured with Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan, 75-year-old Dr. Landol has played a pivotal role in spreading awareness about maternal health, family planning, and hygiene and continues to educate women.
Dr. Padmavathy Bandopadhyay
Dr. Bandopadhyay is the first woman to hold the position of Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force and the second woman in the Indian Armed Forces to have received a three-star rank. After arming herself with a degree from the prestigious Armed Forces Medical College in Pune, she joined the Indian Air force in 1968. She had also served as a medical officer in the India Pakistan War of 1971 for which she was awarded the Param Vishisht Seva Medal.
The aviation medicine specialist was the first woman to become a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India and the first Indian woman to conduct scientific research at the North Pole. A member of the New York Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bandopadhyay was conferred with the Padma Shree Award this year.
Dr. Shanti Roy
Hailing from Siwan village in Bihar, Dr. Roy has emerged as one of the top gynecologists and obstetricians in the state and was felicitated with the Padma Shri award this year for her contributions towards the improvement of medical facilities for women. Now retired, Dr. Roy has served as the head of the Department of Gynaecology at Patna Medical College but she continues tow rok actively towards spreading awareness about women’s health issues.
She has also spoken about how traditional gender roles make women neglect their health. She has been quoted as saying, “Women take care of their husband and children. They are always busy making food for them and making them happy. But they don’t ever think or take care of themselves.”
Dr Indira Hinduja will always be remembered for delivering the country’s first test-tube baby, all the way back in 1986. A gynaecologist, obstetrician, and infertility specialist, she received her medical degree from Mumbai University and has been practising in her hometown since. Hinduja is also credited with inventing the Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) technique, which resulted in the birth of the country’s first GIFT baby in 1988.
Practicing in PD Hindu National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, she is also associated with developing an oocyte donation technique for menopausal and premature ovarian failure patients. For her efforts in this field, she was awarded the prestigious Padma Shri by the Government in 2011.
(Edited by Athira Nair)