Nagpur: She is a Doctor on the go! Her service and specialty on demand by so many city hospitals that one really wonders how she finds time to manage her own private practice too ? And then there is the family also, two small growing-up kids, a husband who is a Onco Surgeon and parents.
Looking at women like her reminds you again and again that a female achiever has to be a multi tasking person; in fact she has to be an adept juggler!
Our Woman of the Week this Sunday is Dr. Ashwini Tayade, an Infectious Diseases,Tropical Medicine Physician and Fungal Infections Specialist. We are lucky there are two of them in Nagpur, since there are only 50 in the entire country.
Why is her specialization unique and so much in demand by other Physicians?
To answer that we need to use a few quotations from Dr. House, M.D. the most hated and the most adored Doctor on American TV, who is watched world wide. He is the Celebrity Doctor who all big hospitals in USA want, but he is always on the brink of getting thrown out from his own. He is rude, he is obnoxious, he is inhuman… but he almost always finds the answer. He is an infectious diseases physician!
“The treatments don’t always work. Symptoms never lie.” He says.
“Welcome to the world. Everyone’s different, everyone gets treated different. You try fighting that, you end up dying of TB.”
“Idiopathic, from the Latin meaning we’re idiots cause we can’t figure out what’s causing it.”
“If he gets better, I’m right, if he dies, you’re right.”
As Dr. Ashwini herself would explain, “What ‘lay people’ do not understand about illness is that the symptoms are real, but the underlying causes are hidden, deviously so. You have to fathom them out, by different tests, by trial and error, by asking many questions and always assuming that the patient can and will lie. It’s a race between you and some unknown bacteria/ virus/ fungus/ pollutant/ germ/ mite/ deficiency : if you win the race, the patient gets cured and lives, if you lose… well, we saw what happened in the Gorakhpur hospital just now!”
But this demure, young, modest lady does not talk much. She simply explains her ‘specialty’ as ” I get the answers that others may not. So my services are much in demand.”
How did she end up being a I.D. (Infectious Diseases) specialist?
“Though there are no Doctors in my family, I always knew I wanted to be one and my family encouraged me to the hilt. I was very good at academics, passing in merit both my 10th and 12th board exams. Somewhere along the way I had also decided that I would work with HIV patients, probably because I saw how they were shunned by society as a whole and even sometime, the medical profession. This decision opened the door for the entire gamut of infectious diseases for me.”
What are infectious diseases?
They are not simply illnesses like TB, Malaria, Typhoid, Encephalitis, Gastric illnesses that we know about.
Cancer is not an infection (or is it?) but it can be the cause of many secondary infections. Sometime, these infections become fatal, and cancer gets a bad name!
Implants in your body, even artificial teeth, can lead to infections. This of course includes donated organs also.
Infections can be caused by travelling to distant places, or even a forest just 20 kms away, because it exposes you to new ‘organisms’ that are not present in your everyday surroundings.
Thus an I.D. physician has to be more of a detective than a Doctor, asking the patient many questions.
As Ashwini says “we have to know the history, geography and biology of the patient. We have to quiz her about her habits, what she has been eating, where she has gone, what she has done… everything.”
She also explains that her training lies in deciding what diagnostic tests should be conducted for the given symptoms, AND the replies she has got to her questions.
So when a Pediatrician treating a child say, may not be quick enough to diagnose why the child is running a high fever, and sees that time is running out, he will call in an I.D. specialist for an accurate and faster diagnosis. This may well end up saving the child’s life.
It was a hard struggle to find acceptance
Though post her MBBS from GMC Nagpur, Ashwini did M.D. in Medicine from IGMC, then specialized in Infections related to cancer in a Hyderabad hospital before doing super specialization in I.D. from Appolo Chennai, which included Observorship in a Detroit hospital, she did not find acceptance easily in the medical fraternity in Nagpur where she now lives and practises with her Onco Surgeon husband Dr. Ramakant Tayde.
“Being a female and perceived as being very young, was also a deterrent” she admits.
“But once a few hospitals and Doctors had obtained my consultation on some difficult cases, they were quick to understand and appreciate my worth.”
She is now a consultant to almost all big hospitals of Nagpur and also has her own consultancy at Ramdaspeth. (Navprabhat chambers, Landmark ).
The feather in her cap was arranging a stupendously successful conference on I.D in Nagpur called CIDSCON which was attended by senior international Faculty along with many Indian luminaries of the field and many delegates. It was a rare conference which was booked full and could not accommodate new ‘on the spot’ registrations though it was held in the far away Le Meridian hotel.
The success of the conference was also a measure of how fast awareness of this new ‘branch’ of medicine is growing and its crucial importance.
Not surprising at all.
As Ashwini says ” infectious diseases are the second largest killer in India.” What’s more, you can ‘catch’ infections anywhere, even in a sterile and sanitized ICCU of a hospital!
—Sunita Mudaliar, Executive Editor