Dr. Rathnamala Desai

This interview was conducted by Ms. Rajashree Kallapur

Dr. Rathnamala M. Desai is the National President of Family Planning Association of India (affiliated to International Planned Parenthood Federation IPPF). She is a life member of IMA, Hubli Dharwad Obstetrics and Gynaecological Association of India (Affiliated to FOGSI) and Indian Association of Gynaecological Endoscopists. She is appointed as a Country Coordinator and coach for India to Geneva Foundation for Medical Education and Research (GFMER), Switzerland. She holds multiple gold medals in her MBBS and MD. Apart from that, she was awarded with Vaidya Jeeva Ratna by JSS Institute of Economic Research, Vidyagiri, Dharwad and a Lifetime Achievement Award by Karnataka State Obstetrics and Gynaecology Association (KSOGA) on recognition of her outstanding service towards Womanhood and Medical Education. She has worked in a govt hospital and later in a charitable hospital before joining as the Principal of SDM College of Medical Sciences, Dharwad.

The journey was not easy. Born to a business man, she is the youngest of 10 children. In those days, society didn’t allow girls to study beyond 7th grade. In fact, her elder sister had to withdraw her admission to 8th grade because she attained menarche. As time passed, Dr. Rathnamala’s elder brother got into medicine and her father realized how important it was for his girls to study too. He made up his mind that she, the youngest of all, would become a doctor.

Her father enrolled her in a convent school. Convent schools expected the parents to tutor their children at home. Her mom who had studied only till the 3rd grade, learnt English from her son to teach Dr. Rathnamala. Her mother ensured that she never had to do household work so that she could fully focus on her studies. Her father, mother and brother were her significant motivators. Apart from her family members, she got full support from her husband and in-laws so that she could give her 100% to her profession. Having to go in the middle of the night for an emergency was never a problem. She says that it is extremely important to have a right life partner who can understand a doctor’s priorities.

She was one of 16 women out of 100 students at her medical college. She didn’t face any discrimination-both boys and girls were posted together on various projects. However, her greatest difficulty was that saree was compulsory for women to wear. Managing a saree (at the age of 16) while performing medical activities is no simple task! Even today, she wears saree but finds it inconvenient. Wearing hospital scrubs for work is more convenient for her now.

Her advice to young women joining healthcare studies is earnest and simple: “medicine is a very difficult and lengthy course. You need not be a genius to become a doctor, all it requires is sheer hard work. There is no short cut to success. There is no substitute to hard work. It demands many personal sacrifices. Parties and weddings take a backseat. Only when you understand this, should you join medicine, otherwise you will be choosing a wrong profession. Patients are always your first priority, always. But, once you choose this path with full dedication, it can give you immeasurable satisfaction.”

Her greatest awards are her satisfied patients and successful students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *