For the 9 days of Navratri, Team ApeCape has something exciting in store for you. We’ve spoken to 9 special Goddesses – everyday, real, human women who inspire us by word and deed! We bring you their stories every day and hope that you love them as much as we enjoyed writing them for you.
Doctors truly embody selflessness across specializations. When they choose to provide top-quality services in under-served markets, the people there respect them as if they are divine. That’s just why we decided that our next Goddess will be Dr. Veena Siddareddy, an ophthalmologist and medical entrepreneur from Kalaburagi, Karnataka. We bring you her story in her voice.
Journey Into Medicine
From the time I was in high school, I was very focused on my studies. I wanted to pursue medicine right from the beginning. While I was doing my MBBS, I decided to pick a surgical discipline as my specialization. The reason for this was two-fold. I knew I could make an active difference between good health and illness with a few precise incisions. Also, as a woman, I knew that shortly I would be responsible for a family. With that in mind, I didn’t want to take up a job where I would be on call on nights and so on; I wanted to be able to give my best to both worlds.
Ophthalmology: Bringing Vision To The People
Like I said, I wanted to choose a branch of surgery as my specialization. When it came to picking the branch, I decided after careful consideration to go with ophthalmology. I felt this was a discipline where I would be able to do a lot of outreach. As of 2020, over 40 million people in India are blind. Earlier, the numbers had told an even grimmer story, and there was a concentrated effort towards eliminating avoidable blindness. Around this time, I was choosing my specialization, and I wanted to be part of the efforts to terminate the march towards blindness.
I worked with geriatrics on one end of the spectrum and with school children on the other end. The longer I worked in this field, the more I felt I had made a good career choice. I worked in urban hospitals, which helped me gain insights into processes and how it was essential to streamline eyecare. When I moved into tier-2 cities and through them to rural areas, I was able to utilize this learning to create a deeper impact and treat more patients than I thought possible.
Until 2013, I had done over 8000 cataract surgeries and 500 outreach eye camps with a charitable organization. Even after my husband and I started our own hospital, I ensured that eye care did not take a backseat in my plans.
The Birth of United
My husband (a trauma surgeon) and I talked about giving back to our own people – in Kalaburagi – by setting up a centre with top-quality medical facilities. That is how we established United – as a trauma care centre to ensure that accident victims did not lose their lives due to the lack of high-quality care at the right time. From inception, I managed the internal planning and architecture of the centre. Once we set it up, I took over Internal Management.
In 2012, United was a 23-bedded trauma and critical care centre. In less than 10 years, we have over 3 units in Kalaburagi and around 3 in Bengaluru as well. These include a level-2 trauma & critical care hospital, a boutique mother and child care hospital, a COVID care centre, and an upcoming hospital in Kalaburagi. In 2021, United Bengaluru launched to bring the same level of care that Kalaburagi experienced to middle-class urban citizens who felt the pinch of the lack of high-quality yet affordable medical care. With a hospital and several fully-fledged clinics, United helps urbanites plan their medical expenses while ensuring health is a top priority.
Across our hospital, we have single overarching philosophy – Treatment First, Billing Next. United never denies a patient treatment because they haven’t started their billing cycle yet. To us, the patient is the most important; saving their life is critical.
I mentioned the rapid growth of United here because it is vital that today’s youngsters know the value of dreaming big. If they do that and work towards their goals with focus and determination, nothing is impossible.
COVID & Healthcare
When the COVID pandemic swept through the nation, the healthcare sector was overwhelmed. We were in the midst of a situation that nobody had envisioned. As a consequence, we dealt with it on the go, making quick decisions, implementing changes. Patient counts increased every day, and we had to constantly work with the government to save the maximum lives.
The second wave brought in even more devastation. Most of our doctors were working round the clock with our patients. At that time, my team and I ensured a smooth inflow of medicines, equipment, coordinated for oxygen, scaled up testing, and did everything we could to set up a robust infrastructure to fight this pandemic with everything we had.
Fighting Gender Notions – One Woman At A Time
Right from the days I practised ophthalmology in the field; I noticed something. Most patients weren’t comfortable with a woman performing surgeries. Society had ingrained this mindset deeply, something that wasn’t easy to change overnight. It took several months of hard work, perseverance and interactions to initiate a low transformation. However, when people spread the word that there is an excellent woman surgeon, it was heart-warming to see society’s response as a whole.
This is something that I carried with me even when we started United. We ensure that at least 50% of our staff are female, not just the nursing staff. Every single staff member at our hospital is on our rolls because they truly deserve their place there.
I believe very strongly that healthcare for all should not just be a slogan, but we need to practice it as a society.
The other topic that I want to highlight is a humane approach to healthcare. Since I’m involved in the internal management of the hospital, I see patients in pain and relatives under unbelievable stress. It takes a little bit of time, a few kind words and a lot of empathy to make a difference to them. But putting in that effort can transform lives. So, as doctors, I believe that not only should we be saving people, we should also be able to touch them & transform them.
My Advice to the Goddesses Out There
Believe in yourselves, and know that only you can achieve the goals you set for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to help you or for the situation to be ideal. You have the courage and strength within yourself. Set your goals, respect yourself and work towards success. Don’t rest on your previous laurels; instead, keep setting new goals and achieving them seamlessly.
To the working moms, I will say this. Take some time for yourself as well. For example, I enjoy gardening, travelling and cooking. This becomes my oasis of calm amidst all of life’s stress. Find your calm place as well. This will help you be happier, healthier and more productive – in your personal and professional life.
Would you like to see what United Hospital is doing these days? You can find their website, follow them on Facebook for Bangalore and Kalaburagi, Instagram and LinkedIn. Read about our other Everyday Extraordinary Goddesses – Shravanthi, Bulbul, Smitha, Jacintha and Anjali.