On International Day of Action for Women's Health, we take this opportunity to reflect on the stellar progress made by women in advancing tech-innovation in the healthcare sector. One area where women have made an important difference in healthcare innovation is in the acceptance and usage of surgical technology, including the use of robotic-assisted surgery (RAS). Here are five-woman surgeons from across India who have excelled in the use of advanced medical technology like RAS and contributed significantly as women surgeons in India, there by advancing the Indian healthcare ecosystem.
Dr. Rooma Sinha, Gynaecologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, is recognised as a pioneer and authority in managing complex gynaecological diseases. Dr. Sinha has performed over 10,000 minimal access surgeries in her career.
Her extensive experience in performing surgeries using RAS in removing Myomas (myomectomy) and Endometriosis has helped some of her young patients across the country. When asked why RAS, Dr. Sinha said, "Endometriosis becomes a challenging surgery due to the adhesive nature of the disease and mechanics of human hands, and straight-stick laparoscopy presents a risk of leaving some endometriosis depending on surgical skill levels. In robotics, we can angulate instruments in the right angles that allow for a more précise dissection, and enabling us to preserve as much healthy tissues as possible."
Dr.Sinha has a number of prestigious honours to her name, including FIGO Fellowship 2000, AOFOG Young Gynaecology Award 2002, Legend of the year in Gynaecology - Times Health Care (2017), Best Laparoscopy & Robotic Surgeon- by Hi9 (2018), Excellence in the field of medicine by FICCI (2014) to name a few.
Dr. Rama Joshi, Director and HOD, Oncology & Robotic Surgery, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram. Dr Joshi has performed over 100 robotic surgeries in patients as young as 20 years of age.
“In one of my recent surgeries that involved the removal of a 22 cm ovarian mass from a 14 week pregnant lady, without disturbing the uterus or the baby using RAS, was evidence enough to show the superiority of RAS over other alternatives for the same procedure. I was happy with the success of the procedure and the happiness of the patient which gives me enough confidence to do similar procedures if the need arises.”
In her journey of over 20 years, Dr Joshi has been a mentor to many gynae-oncology students at various prestigious medical schools and has been leading the way for the fraternity by organising national-international gynae-cancer conferences and various other cervical cancer prevention initiatives.
Dr Joshi has been instrumental in initiating the DNB Super speciality programme in India and has been awarded six gold medals, including the Pfizer gold medal postgraduate award and several other honours, including Double Helical National Health Award, 2017, Bhamashah Award for Academic Excellence. She is also a member of the steering committee of ICMR on ovarian cancer treatment guideline. She was UICC Fellow at BGH, Buffalo, NY, USA and has been President, Association of Gynaecologic Oncologist of India, 2016-17, and was also the Hon. Secretary General, AGOI, 2011-2015.
Dr. Anupama R., Gynae-Oncologist, Amrita Institute, Kochi is associated with the Gynaecology division of "Paripoorna- Centre of comprehensive women's healthcare" at the Institute and has also started day-care surgical programs where patients affected with gynaecological cancers undergo surgery without having to stay overnight at the hospital. She has been proactively advocating for women, driving awareness about endometrial cancer, its symptoms, and preventive measures.
She also has a keen interest in clinical research and is currently involved in molecular research in ovarian cancer. To date, she has done over 800 robotic procedures, becoming the first gynaecologist in India to do so. Speaking on patient awareness, she mentioned, "It is a popular misconception that a robot does robotics surgeries. This is not true; robotic-assisted surgeries are performed by skilled doctors using robotics technology as an interface. RAS with DaVinci has made complex surgeries simpler and more comfortable to perform and helps with precision and dexterity. Whenever you have a technology which can make your life comfortable, use that technology."
Dr. Anupama has won numerous awards for her work both in national and international forums. She has been published in more than 38 medical journals and has authored several book chapters. Dr. Anupama is also a reviewer for many national and international journals.
Dr. Anshumala Shukla-Kulkarni, Consultant, Gynaecology Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital and Medical Research Institute, Mumbai, has been practising for the last 17 years.
Dr. Anshumala has been driving awareness on gynaecology problems and treatments for Endometriosis, fibroids, and pelvic floor repairs, i.e., displacement of uterus or bladder in the body. She says, "The Robotic-assisted surgery with DaVinci is one of the important medical management option for Endometriosis and fibroids as the robot helps to improve the precision with 3D vision and rotation motion in removing fibroids. The robot has a significant role to play in the quality of these procedures and in addressing the associated complexities."
She further added, "I endeavour to provide the best there is in this field. And I believe that RAS has been able to improve our success and precision rate considerably and has a potential to become the standard of care for some of our procedures."
Dr. Shukla was awarded an outstanding Young Achiever Award for Minimal-access gynaecology at the Western and National levels - JCI (Junior Chamber International) 2013 and was Voted Top Doctor, 2016 Gynaecology and Robotic surgery by peer-reviewed International Innovation survey published by a leading Indian magazine.
Dr. Rani Bhat, Head & Senior Consultant – Gynae-Oncology Surgeon (Robotic & Laparoscopic), Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore, has been treating gynaecological malignancies like adenomyosis, fibroid uterus and endometriosis for over two decades now.
Passionately engaged in upskilling gynae-onco surgeons and training young gynecologists with the latest in gynae-onco medical technology, Dr. Bhat teaches sub-speciality registrars in surgical, medical, and radiation oncology selected by the National Board of Examinations (NBE), under the Union Ministry of Health, to undergo Diplomate in National Board (DNB) training at the institution. She has also founded a one-year sub-speciality gynaecological oncology fellowship programme directed towards qualified gynaecologists interested in gynae-oncology at HCG cancer hospital in Feb 2016. The programme, well appreciated by the medical community, has continually received high-quality applicants from all over the country every year since its inception. Currently, Dr Bhat has initiated a minimally invasive training program (laparoscopic & robotics surgery) for young gynaecologists at Apollo and has also established oncofertility program at all Apollo
centres to provide fertility preservation options for cancer patients of reproductive age. Having performed over 87 Robotic Assisted Surgery (RAS) procedures, Dr Rani stated, "I have always had a keen interest and expertise in minimal access surgery, including robotic surgery. Given the benefits and ability RAS provides, I'm able to perform complex procedures like radical pelvic operation, surgical staging for endometrial and cervical cancers, and radical vulvectomy and inguinal lymphadenectomy for cancers of the vulva and vagina, with complete ease."
In their spirit for adopting advanced medical technologies for various treatments and surgical procedures, the five surgeons have been active in spreading awareness about cancers in women and their treatments. They have significantly contributed to clinical research and medical practice in their respective fields. Their participation in the med-tech adaptation in India has set a benchmark for all aspiring woman surgeons.
*This story is published by VOH team*
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