Giving from the heart
Paediatric cardiologist Dr Sunita Maheshwari runs People4people, an organisation that funds activities for children in government schools of Karnataka.Chethana Dinesh profiles the healthcare entrepreneur who is glowing after her meeting with US President Barack Obama in Mumbai
Not surprising. For, Dr Sunita Maheshwari, famously known as the ‘Queen of Hearts’, is determined to touch people’s lives, around the world, in her own special way. She practices medicine, dreams up ideas to make healthcare affordable and patient-friendly, reaches out to patients in remote parts of India, teaches students in need of expert guidance in her chosen field of study, and writes articles on parenting.
It all began when the Yale-trained paediatric cardiologist who worked in the United States for almost a decade decided to come back to India.
“I always knew that the United States was not my final destination. My ambition was to gain all the knowledge that the US had to offer me and come back to India to put it to good use,” says Sunita. Luckily for her, her radiologist husband, Dr Arjun Kalyanpur, too felt the same. “In fact, I agreed to marry him only on the condition that we would come back to India to practise,” she says.
Holding on to her dream, Sunita landed in India in 1999. She soon found herself heading the Paediatric Cardiology Department at Narayana Hrudayalaya in Bangalore. Her devotion to her profession and her love for her little patients saw her scale great heights.
“Life was just going fine for me, but not for my husband who shuttled between the US and India once every two months as he had teaching assignments at Yale. That led to the birth of Teleradiology Solutions,” she says, going back to the days when she donned the role of a medical entrepreneur.
Set up as a one-of-its-kind, innovative healthcare IT company that provides teleradiologic interpretations to hospitals in the US, the company soon spread its wings to Singapore, Croatia, Georgia, Puerto Rico, Denmark and Netherlands.
“We’ve recently signed an agreement with the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Maldives and I’m quite excited about it as this hospital was a gift by our former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi to the people of Maldives,” she says.
Even as her company grew by leaps and bounds, Sunita found herself restless. She felt hat she wasn’t contributing enough to enrich the community. And, the result was Telerad Foundation, which provides telediagnostics to hospitals in remote areas where there are scanners but no doctors to interpret the images.
“Ramakrishna Mission Hospital in Arunachal Pradesh is one such hospital,” she says.
While her mornings are spent as ‘Chief Dreamer’ at Telerad, her afternoons are devoted to RXDX, a multispeciality acute care clinic (not a hospital) in Whitefield, Bangalore. “At RXDX, my aim is to treat patients in a cheerful atmosphere,” she says.
Taking her mission to spread knowledge a notch higher, Sunita runs an innovative e-teaching programme for postgraduates in paediatric cardiology. “My students are in India and Nigeria,” she says.
This doctor who wears many hats with elan is a writer too. She is a regular contributor to many magazines of repute. She was the editor of the Paediatric Cardiac Society of India journal too. And now, she also authoring a book on simple tips to parents in India on bringing up children. “When I see small children complaining of headache and stomach ache, I know the problem is not with their bodies but with their lifestyles and that prompted me to write the book,” she says.
Given the day has only 24 hours, how does she manage to pack so much into it? “The staff at Telerad call me the Queen of Delegation,” she says, and follows it up immediately with, “I have good time management skills too.”
Spending time with her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son hasn’t been a problem for this mommy with a flourishing career. She sometimes takes them along on outstation training sessions and discusses her little patients’ cases with them. While her son is training to be a tennis player, her daughter is an accomplished Bharathanatyam dancer. “My dream is to see them grow into good human beings,” says Sunita, who unwinds with music but “stays away from the kitchen.”
This paediatric cardiologist who was nominated as one of the top 20 women healthcare achievers in India in 2009 also runs People4people, a trust that funds activities for children in the government schools of Karnataka. She is working on popularising the use of folic acid among women who want to conceive. “Taking folic acid much before pregnancy can actually bring down the number of heart-related problems among newborns,” she declares.
About her meeting with US President Barack Obama, she says it was ‘truly amazing’.
“We, a group of 35 entrepreneurs from all over India, interacted with him for 45 minutes. He spoke to each one of us. I carried a T shirt and Guha’s book ‘Makers of Modern India’ which I gave him,” she says.