By Rimli Bhattacharya
In her white apparel of a doctor, with a stethoscope in her hand, looking jaded post a two hour complex surgery, Dr. Sudeshna Ray settles in her cabin with a steaming cup of Assam tea without sugar. I have been waiting for her for last half an hour. She apologizes and smiles, as she says, “We are supposed to work for twenty-five hours and sorry for the delay. Hope you are comfortable.” I smile back, saying, “No one will feel comfortable in a hospital room and that too in the chamber of a gynecologist.”
My association with Dr. Ray had been for a decade, when I was referred to her by Dr. Om Shrivastav for my menstrual problem. I feared uterine cancer and it turned out to be gall stones.
Dr Ray is also associated with various social activities, in addition of being a medico. She takes lectures on puberty, needs of adolescent gynecology for the students of appropriate age group and also for parents, given the growing need of awareness in the present day circumstances. She has also been part of the campaign on needs of contraception amongst the sex workers in Mumbai. She has participated in the Church-run charitable clinic for the economically marginal people. She conducts workshops for various corporates for working women of different age groups, depending on their needs and advises them on the increasing gynecological challenges.
In this conversation, Dr. Ray speaks to me on women’s health and her own philosophy as a doctor.
Rimli Bhattacharya: Dr. Ray tell us something about you.
Dr. Sudeshna Ray: I am an MD MRCOG. I work as a Consultant Obstetrician & Gynecologist, practicing at Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Saifee Hospital, and Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai.
RB: Where did you have your education?
SR: I finished my schooling from Carmel Convent High School. Faced the entrance examinations and studied MBBS at Kolkata National Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata University. Post my MBBS, I again applied for PG and qualified the MCI Entrance Examination and subsequently completed my MD in Gynecology & Obstetrics from the University College of Medicine, Kolkata University. I was granted MRCOG from Royal College, London in May 2007.
RB: You have had a long period of training.
SR: Well to be a good medical professional, we need to upgrade ourselves every moment. My degree is probably the highest for any gynecologist but I wish to study more. I am continuously doing so.
RB: Why did you venture in female health segment as a gynecologist? You could have chosen an easier field.
SR: Nothing is easy. In terms of medicine, all the subjects are equally tough. You never know even a simple tooth problem can turn fatal. During my days as a student, I often observed the problems of females and that made me tread in this field. I was intrigued always by the wonders and joys of nature’s supreme showcase of power through a pregnancy and childbirth and I wanted to be an active participant in it. Women’s health issues are also interesting as they are hardly isolated and only physical. The challenge lies in understanding the emotions behind them and then address them successfully. In your words ‘female health segment’. See your case. You came with a problem of bleeding and while investigating, we found that you had gall stones, where late Dr. Chetan Shah removed eight large stones and you never had a symptom that you were carrying such disastrous silent stones in your body. He had to perform the laparoscopic surgery, which is equally tricky. One wrong step and the patient will slip/die. So you are a witness to how diversified our field is.
RB: Do you treat men?
SR (Smiling): I am a gynecologist, which means I specialize in problems related to women. Husbands, partners, and any man concerning the woman patient are welcome to discuss “her” problems but not “his” ones.
RB: But I see you have male assistants. They too accompany you, when you perform a surgery on women?
SR: Yes, I am training them so that they can handle female cases. A man also needs to know how to handle female problems, what say? For us doctors, there is no division in terms of gender; it is all in the mind of patient and we need to change that. We all are equal, why say man and woman. Doctor is a doctor – can be a man, can be a woman.
RB: What are your specializations?
SR: Critical care pregnancy, Female complex gynecological problems, fibroids, heavy menstrual problems, hormonal imbalances, and many more. All cannot be addressed in one interview. For example, we had to conduct tests for FSH and TSH respectively on you. Fortunately in your case, we did not find any abnormality but I have several patients, who come under severe scrutiny while the hormones play havoc in the body. I also deal with UTI, Pelvic Floor problem, endometrial problems and am also the Head of Light House (Jaslok Hospital initiative), which is 360 degree care centre for adolescent boys/girls.
RB: Have you been recognized for your efforts in terms awards?
SR (laughs loudly): Nothing like that. I had received the best doctor award in FORSI conference and it keeps coming but for that you need tremendous hard work.
RB: What is the next step in your study/research, as you said you need to upgrade yourself every moment?
SR: Robotic Surgery. It is an advanced form of minimal invasive surgery. I have attained the training for this advanced form of surgery 2 years back and hoping to give all my patients in need, the advantage of such precise advanced form of surgery.
RB: You are a mother as well. How do you manage the work-life balance?
SR: That is very challenging and sometimes affects my health as well. But we need to stay calm. My husband, who is an IT professional, is my support who handles my kids in my absence. There are times when I am just parking my car and I get a call from the hospital and I need to rush. Sometimes I don’t even turn in my home until the patient stabilizes. It might call for staying in the hospital the entire night without a wink of sleep. The trick is in prioritization.
RB (laughing): You must be handling nagging patients like me? May be some aggressive ones as well.
SR (smiling): To be a doctor you need to be prepared for those difficult ones. That is what I said. We need to handle the patient with extreme care. One wrong move and it can turn fatal and then the family of the patient pounds on us as if we are criminals.
RB: Any health tip for women/men?
SR: The usual…Diet, exercise, keep a check on weight, obesity fetches a lot of problems, eating and sleep habits should be followed. Eat at regular intervals and one need eight hours of sleep. Drink plenty of water to avoid UTI. Meditate and be stress free. But most essentially – GIVE IMPORTANCE TO YOURSELF.
RB: Would you like to venture into areas like IVF?
SR: It is taken care by the other experts of my team.
RB: Doctors are accused of overcharging patients and also over loading patients with unnecessary tests. What is your take on this?
SR: In that case, you know me, what do you think? We charge as any other professional. And you talk of unnecessary tests. So in that case how did your menstrual bleeding turn out to be a gall stone problem? It would have been left undiagnosed and could burst your gall bladder if we hadn’t conducted tests on you. We need to see inside the patient and then treat the patient. We charge what we deserve.
RB: How far do you stay from the hospital? As you said you need to be on your heels.
SR: Only 7 kms and I cannot afford to stay further away as I said we need to be on heels.
RB: Would you mind if we share your cell number so that a patient can reach you?
SR: For sure. I can be reached at +91 9892875329 and you can also visit my page at Jaslok hospital for an appointment.
RB: Thank you for your time.
SR: Most welcome and don’t get scared waiting in a doctor’s chamber. We are humans and have equal emotions like you. We treat a disease, we gift a life and I gift a mother a baby at least thrice in a day and you know what I mean. The C Sections and normal yet complex deliveries.
Rimli Bhattacharya completed Mechanical Engineering from National Institute of Technology. After obtaining an MBA, she worked in the corporate sector. Rimli is a trained Indian classical dancer, based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets at: @rimli76
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