Dr. Rashmi Ingale works as an ophthalmologist at HelpMeSee’s partner hospital in Chitrakoot, India, a town about ten hours southeast of New Delhi. Two years ago, she decided to join the ranks of surgeons as one of the 18 female ophthalmologists on staff at Sadguru Netra Chikitsalaya, a renowned eye hospital within a broader health and education complex founded by Shri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust (SSSST). Several schools and a general hospital are nearby, but the eye hospital draws the most patients through its offer of free or discounted surgeries for the poor and their recruitment of top doctors from across India.
Born and raised in Jalgaon, Maharashtra, Dr. Ingale became interested in the medical field at age 17. She had no early family connections to medicine, but she was drawn to the possibility of service. It offered her a chance to help others once she completed her studies. Now well established on her career path as an ophthalmic surgeon, Dr. Ingale is married to an ENT surgeon, and both of her in-laws are in the field as well: one as an ENT surgeon, the other as a gynecologist. Medicine, for them, is a family commitment.
She first visited the Chitrakoot hospital for a diabetic retinopathy workshop during her final year of studies at Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, when she was drawn to the hospital’s sense of community. She pursued further work in Chitrakoot through their three-year ophthalmology fellowship set to end in 2016. Now 30, she is one of the youngest surgeons currently on staff.
Surgeons choose to work at SSSST for a variety of reasons. Not only does Chitrakoot provide young ophthalmologists with the volume and variety of patients needed to hone their surgical skills early in their career, but there’s also a deep and abiding commitment to service that resonates with nearly every individual on campus. For female surgeons, the benefits extend further yet. Over the years, SSSST has garnered a reputation with students, faculty, patients, and families alike as an institution that not only supports a culture of safety and respect for women, but also actively nurtures it.
During her six workdays per week, Dr. Ingale spends four in the operating theater, where she can complete as many as 40 high quality surgeries in a single session. Four or five of those each day are often pediatric surgeries. She estimates that in her two years at Chitrakoot, she has done over 1,000 surgeries. Three days of the week she has classes, part of the focus on increasing professional skills and development through the three-year fellowship programme. Her focus on work keeps her busy. But she does find time afterward on Sundays to enjoy some free time, which include listening to old Hindi music or re-watching her favorite movie, the Twilight Saga.
Dr. Ingale has an energetic one and a half-year-old toddler named Aarush, and her husband, the ENT specialist doctor who works at a Government District Hospital. What makes the family unique, however, is that none of them live together. At least, not at the moment. Her husband lives nearly 600 kilometers away in Nagpur, and her son lives with his grandparents, 900 kilometers away in Jalgaon.
The significance of SSSST’s progressive thinking has tremendous implications for women beginning their medical careers. It provides families with the reassurances they need to feel secure in letting daughters move away from home, opening doors of opportunity that previously would be non-existent in India.
And for her part, Dr. Ingale understands the benefit of the opportunities she has at SSSST. She also understands the value of having the support of her husband and family as she works diligently to further her career. She knows as soon as her fellowship is finished, she’ll be set on a course of healthcare service in the years to come. In fact soon she’ll be moving toward Nagpur, with plans to open a private practice. What excites her most, though, is the thought of being reunited once again with her husband and child- Her family.