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Earlier the role of women in medicine was more like Florence Nightingale- the Nursing profession. But, over the years that role has obviously got diluted to her becoming a leader in the medical field – doctors or a biotechnologist and being at the forefront of medical science. The role has changed dramatically over the last 50 years.
In the Indian context, the first Indian doctor we ever had was a lady called Anandibai Joshi, this was somewhere in 1890. She went to the US, studied medicine there and came back. Those days it was limited to women treating women. Not women treating men. Anandibai was a pioneer in that.
Then slowly and surely we had women in the medical profession. Even in very strict societies which segregate men and women, for example in Islamic society, medicine is one profession where contact with men is accepted. So today we have pioneers like Dr Indira Hinduja who produced the first scientifically documented test-tube baby. If you look at genetics and bio-genetics today its women who are fuelling the growth in that sector.
Corporatization of the hospital culture and medicine is taking place and women are in the forefront. For example, Apollo Hospital – a part of this hospital chain is run by a woman – Sangeeta Reddy.
Hinduja hospital was run by Mrs Lalita Hinduja who did a lot of good work. She expired at a young age. We lost a dynamic person who really cared not only for the hospital but also for the environment, patients and themselves. That was supposed to be the golden age of the hospital. Women when they do something they do with full devotion; they are totally focused in their job where as men have a lot of other distractions. She left a legacy which we are proud of.
Then have a leader in the field of pharmaceuticals – Dr Swati Pirmal.
It’s the beginning of the change. It’s a dynamic process so it’ll take generations to change. The time we became independent, women hardly had a role to play. Today we have women mainly in the field of gynaecology, dermatology, paediatrics, dentistry. In my dental school we had nearly 65% women and we are very happy for that.
I would like to see more change taking place with more and more women coming into the ‘men’s’ field of medicine. They could get more into hardcore fields like cardiac surgery, orthopaedics and neurosurgery. They could impart a slightly softer and caring touch that could help in better healing of a patient.