Leaving my hometown of Bombay, India, I loved to America in 1971. I was newly graduated from medical school at the University of Bombay and had come here for my residency.
Since my first day of medical school, I was fascinated by the idea that in one moment a baby transforms from a fetus to a newborn, and instantly, their systems start functioning independently from the mother. I decided I wanted to be a neonatologist and knew I’d have to leave home, because the field of neonatology was not as advanced in India.
There was another reason for leaving home: I knew that I would need an education.
My mother taught me that for women, the choices were to get educated and define what you want to do, or get married and be dependent on somebody else.
I chose the path of education.
Neonatology was the right medical specialty for me because I was interested in systems and how things work. Years later, the same interest led me to study how the healthcare system works and how to improve it.
Fixing healthcare. As medical director of the newborn ICU, I spent years taking care of the sickest babies and trying to make the system work better for them. I wanted to improve healthcare, but didn’t know how. The chairman of Pediatrics supported my pursuit of studying clinical epidemiology and clinical effectiveness at Harvard. While there, I gained new skills, knowledge, and an experience that changed the direction of my career. At Cincinnati Children’s I’ve been able to apply this knowledge.
Focus on math and science. Even though I was struck by Americans’ can-do attitude and their openness to innovation, I think it’s still tougher for women today. I encourage girls to focus on math and science. Many women who may feel uncomfortable with math and science topics give up on those classes too soon, despite having equal ability to excel in these areas. If they stick with it, this educational background would be to their advantage, especially in medicine and research.
I recognize that I’ve been lucky in my marriage and career. I have a wonderful partner, many supportive mentors, and the opportunity to make a difference, all of which have helped me to forge a rewarding path in life. My success is based on being intellectually curious, having strong training and experience, and having the courage to take risks. I encourage all women to push boundaries and not shy away from the difficult path. When you can get yourself to a place where you can take a risk, that is when people will notice you, and that is how you will make a difference.