Published On : Fri, Dec 5th, 2014

Doctor from Nagpur sticks to Indian roots in America; Family follows Hindi at home


When young Dr. Sharad Jaitly, freshly passed out from the Government Medical College and some months short of getting his MD got an opportunity to go with his ‘bride’ to USA, he agreed thinking it would be good change for a few years. He would do some courses, or a fellowship, and come back and resume his medical career in Nagpur. That was where his family lived, that was where he had all his friends and that’s where he wanted to work, live and bring up his family. His father Surendra Jaitly was working for IBM as Dy Director. He was also a keen journalism student who loved to write and later loved his honorary teaching job at the Nagpur University, Deptt of Journalism.

With that plan in mind the newly married couple left for USA. It’s been more than three and half decades and that’s where they still are. Sharad is now a well known Cardiologist and his wife ‘Mani’ is an Oncologist. Starting from the bottom as newbie medicos doing their Residencies all over again, they are now multiple boards certified. (In layman’s language have equivalent of multiple M.Ds).

So they did not really come back to Nagpur and India – but they did the next best thing they could. They created a mini India in their home in USA.

“We made it a point of no compromise that Hindi would be the language that would be spoken at home always,

between my wife and me, and when the kids arrived, between us and the babies too as they grew up. So all our three kids, Rishi, Muni and Puja speak fluent Hindi and they are proud to claim that as their mother tongue, despite being born and brought up in USA” says a proud Dr. Jaitly.

This factor has also helped his elder son Rishi come back to India to work. He heads Twitter in South East Asia and India and works out of Mumbai. He lives there with his born- in -USA  wife and six years’ old daughter, who both love living in Mumbai too.

‘Rishi, Muni and Puja’ – telling names too, we pointed out.

“Yes, I am a devout Hindu and very proud to be one. Come what may, I have a havan at my home in Connecticut once every month. And yes – all my family is strictly vegetarian. Even Puja, who is engaged to an American, is determined to remain so in future too.”

Sharad Jaitly strongly feels that being an Indian and being a Hindu has helped him become a better physician and a compassionate one. This is true of all Indian Doctors practicing in USA. Among all the ethnic groups settled in USA, like Chinese, other Asians, middle Eastern Indians are the most popular and sought after by Americans.

“This is due to our command over English, the ease with which we speak it and also our compassionate and humanistic approach”.

Discussing the medical ethos in India vs. the US, Dr. Jaitly points out that medicine in USA is mostly ‘third party driven’ now – which means totally influenced by Insurance companies. Most Americans have comprehensive health insurance policies which cover all their medical bills, so that is a huge advantage. But on the minus side, they do not have a choice of going to the Doctor they want or the hospital either. They often have to travel to hospitals that are many miles away from where they live though they may be living right next to another hospital. As one can imagine this becomes a huge problem for relatives who have to visit to be with loved ones admitted in the hospital for long duration treatments and serious ailments.

In India, as in Nagpur, patients have the luxury of choosing which doctor they will go to for any ailment. Whatever specialist he may be – a cardiologist, an ophthalmologist or a General physician.

“There is a relationship, a comfort level between the doctor and the patient which is very necessary for healing. A doctor here is still like a family friend and knows all the members of the family. This is a big benefit too since it is easy to know the medical history and facts like which condition runs in the family – like diabetes. There is a holistic approach rather than an impersonal one.

Insurance companies selling Health insurance are making big inroads into India too now. That is a desirable trend, but I hope it does not spoil this Doctor-patient relationship that is so valuable and time honoured.” says Sharad.

Now that all three of Sharad’s children are grown up and settled in their careers and he as retired from his teaching job in the US – though not from practising medicine – he likes to travel to Nagpur as often as he can. Which could be twice a year too. His octogenarian mother still lives in Ramdaspeth as do other family members. His mother is very happy that he keeps seeing patients in Nagpur too despite the busy schedule he may have.

“People come to me with all kinds of questions – should I get a stent or go in for by pass surgery? Which pace maker should i go in for? They even bring me their medical records to go through! ” But whoever comes to him for advise is welcomed with open arms and gratis. There is no question of a fee.

“This way I feel I am giving something back to my city and my home” says Dr. Jaitly.

This connection with patients in India, brings him to comment on another point of medical practise in India.

“Despite the personal touch, there isn’t an aggressive approach to dealing with medical problems. When a patient is suffering from any ailment it is he who decides how many follow up visits he will make to the concerned specialists, what diagnostic tests he will undergo etc. Medical practitioners are more pro active about this in USA. They will follow up with the patient, ensure he comes back for follow up check ups, and all the diagnostic tests will be carried out till we are confident we know what’s wrong and how to treat it” rues Sharad.

His parting words of advise to every Nagpurian friend –

Enjoy life, party hard but do not forget to exercise too.

As he does. When in Nagpur early morning at 6.30 a.m. one can find him at the VCA swimming pool at Jamtha doing his twenty laps religiously. Every evening he can, he also goes for a walk at VNIT.

“The rest of the time, I just enjoy being around the city I grew up in”.

–  Sunita Mudaliar