It’s a huge privilege covering our next interview, which is our first interview of a Doctor & Surgeon. We appreciate Dr Rahul taking time from his busy schedule (given the current covid scenario) to interview with us !
Dr Rahul Singh, our next pathbreaker, is currently pursuing Super Specialty in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery – Residency Program at KIMS Hyderabad.
Dr Rahul talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about always wanting to be a doctor since his childhood and deciding to pursue medicine, specifically in the field of surgery, inspired by his mother.
For students, It takes a lot of effort, dedication, and sacrifices to be away from our own families to be a doctor. You should be mentally and physically prepared enough to face this career without any second thoughts !
Rahul, a little bit about your background?
I hail from Chintamani, a town closer to Bangalore city. My Dad is a graduate in MA Economics and served in the Karnataka administrative services. However, he had to give up his job to look after the family business. My mom is a gynecologist. I lived with my parents only until grade 7 and always stayed away in a boarding school till my higher education. I was interested in a variety of things growing up and gave it all a try, by learning a few musical instruments, taking part in dramas and was into sports as well. I used to play basketball and still go swimming whenever I have a chance. I have had my goal fixated on being a doctor since my childhood and decided to pursue medicine, specifically in the field of surgery. The elders in my family played a big role in implanting this idea of me being a surgeon in my mind and I was inspired by my mom.
What did you do for graduation/post graduation?
I did my MBBS, pursued General Surgery for my MS, and am currently pursuing Super Specialization in Vascular Surgery.
What made you choose such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?
My propensity towards medicine grew, thanks to my dear mother as I closely watched her make the lives of many patients better. I knew one day I wanted to call myself a doctor and was very determined since my childhood and hence set my goals accordingly. I joined a boarding school in my 8th grade, a place where I would say I had the best time in my life. This place had a huge impact on me becoming the person I am today. At this school we were offered an eclectic mix of courses and at the same time, were taught to be a well-rounded human being. We were taught to be grateful by embracing spirituality, respecting time, appreciating the importance of education, and concurrently cherishing all aspects of life. These experiences definitely set the stage for me to evolve into a better human being. The exposure to all kinds of activities and yet being directional laid a strong foundation to balance life very early on and contributed to the most important aspect of being a doctor in today’s world.
I would say my family members were my primary influencers, specifically my mom as she is a doctor.
Dr. Bhaskaran, who was my professor and Head of the department of General Surgery at Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College, was my mentor.
There was a conflict with a person of prominence during my final year of undergrad for no fault of mine, which changed my whole perspective and with each passing day, I was determined and challenged myself to be a surgeon.
As I mentioned earlier, my mom is my inspiration. I used to accompany her whenever I had a chance. So, assisting and shadowing her in the initial days of my career steered me towards taking up General Surgery for post-graduation.
When I was pursuing general surgery my mom unfortunately underwent a surgery during which I discovered the branch of Vascular surgery and its importance.
How did you plan the steps to get into the career you wanted? Or how did you make a transition to a new career? Tell us about your career path
After my undergraduation, we are made to go through training for a month or two in every department (from pediatrics to ophthalmology) to gain exposure to all branches of medicine and the curriculum we learnt. I was lucky enough to be exposed to a variety of surgeries in my initial days and was given a chance to perform an open appendectomy. My first experience in surgery definitely persuaded me to take up General Surgery during my M.S.
Currently, I believe there is a growing need for Vascular Surgeons in India, as the branch of Vascular Surgery is expanding. Vascular surgery refers to a variety of different procedures to treat injuries and disorders of the arteries and veins.
How did you get your first break?
After receiving my M.S in General Surgery, I was offered my first job at the hospital affiliated to the university from which I have graduated. I would consider it my first break and an important achievement as I was chosen by the management and given an opportunity to be a consultant in General Surgery.
What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?
Challenge 1: The conflict during my undergrad, which I mentioned earlier made me strong and taught me to accept the realities of life very early on in my career.
Challenge 2: The competitive entrance exams in India are very demanding and extremely exhausting. I have worked hard and tried to give my best, yet I wasn’t able to secure a place in General Surgery during my first attempt at the entrance exam. It was a difficult time as I needed to take a leap of faith to believe in myself and give myself another chance. With the help and support from my family I decided to try again and not to compromise by pursuing a branch of medicine I wasn’t interested in.
Challenge 3: Right after my M.S graduation, the Covid-19 pandemic hit us. I used to work as a surgeon and at the same time prepare for my upcoming entrance exams for the Residency program. It was a difficult time for everyone around us. Rising up to the demanding crisis by treating the COVID patients and having to secure a seat required a lot of dedication and was extremely challenging.
One challenge that is always present is that this job requires dedication. Initially, we have to work hard and study for 14 hours a day to appear for the exams or entrance tests, and later, we work at the hospital attending to emergencies and treating patients. There will be times when you might miss family, celebrations, festivals, holidays, and most times sleep and food.
Can you tell us about your work in Endovascular Surgery?
I am currently pursuing Super Specialty in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery – Residency Program at KIMS Hyderabad.
If I need to shed some light on who are vascular surgeons and the kind of patients I get to treat, let me start with an analogy. Imagine a water supply system in cities that use a water tower. Fresh water is pumped up the tower from a river or other sources. The tower serves as a pressure reservoir that provides water to homes through a largely parallel arrangement of distribution pipes. Local homeowners control their own water usage through faucets. Key analogous points are the heart (as the city pump), arteries (as parallel distribution pipes), and arterioles (as faucets). If any of the pipes are obstructed with dirt or wastage, the faucets run out of supply, to explain in simple terms. Similarly, conditions such as hardening of the arteries can create “traffic jams / blockages” in your circulatory system, obstructing the flow of blood to any part of the body. Vascular surgeons handle blocked carotid arteries in the neck. They treat the problems of the aorta (a large main artery) after it leaves the heart and enters the abdomen. They also treat Peripheral vascular disease, which often affects the arteries in the upper and lower limbs and feet.
The chief complaints patients typically have are discoloration on toes, leg or foot, swollen veins, foot ulcers, leg cramping, one foot colder than the other, discomfort in limbs that affect daily routine. Such symptoms usually suggest that patients could be experiencing a blockage in their vascular system.
These conditions are treated either through an open, complicated surgery and through minimally invasive, endovascular procedures.
My typical day starts at 7:00 AM, I follow up on all the patients who are currently either in post-operative care or getting ready for a surgery that particular day. After the follow up, we make sure the post-operative care is being followed as planned, there are no complications from the surgery and then prepare the patient for a discharge. Next, we make sure that the patients who are lined up for the surgery are surgically ready. When there are emergencies and complicated surgeries, we are usually in the Operation theater anywhere between 4 to 6 hours depending on the complexity.
After we go through the surgeries, we need to attend to the Out Patient Department where the patients come in for a consultation and sometimes end up having surgeries the same or next day.
On a normal day, our days would end around 8:00 PM after prepping up the patients for the surgeries next day and finishing up discharging the patients for the day. There are days where we might have an emergency procedure to be performed in the late evenings and it has been the case mostly during the COVID times.
The thing I love about my job is that I get to save lives and limbs.
How does your work benefit society?
The joy and satisfaction we receive when the patient is responding to a treatment and our efforts paying off gives us immense satisfaction as we help to save lives.
In India, doctors are revered and given a lot of respect. However, there are times we are taken for granted and I know some of my colleagues were treated very badly. It takes a lot of effort, dedication, and sacrifices to be away from our own family in order for us to be a doctor. I hope and believe that there will be better days for all of us.
Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!
The place where I currently work has patients from all over India and they are directed through referrals, and most of them have been turned down by other hospitals due to the complexity of the issue. The most satisfying experience is when we are able to treat those desperate patients who have been turned down by the majority of the surgeons. Through word of mouth our success with surgeries has reached remote places as well.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
With each day the challenges are on a rise. My advice to someone who would like to be a doctor is that they should be mentally and physically prepared enough to face this battle. There is no place for second thoughts and regrets.
I am very fortunate to have my vocation as a doctor, it is very important since the nature of work demands great dedication.
I plan to pursue a Fellowship in Vascular and Endovascular surgery internationally to enhance my skills. Meanwhile, I would like to gain experience and have a vision to start an institute where I am able to provide patient centric treatment and mentor aspiring vascular surgeons.
Vascular surgeons are specialists who are highly trained to treat diseases of the vascular system. Vascular surgeons are trained in everything: open, complicated surgery and in minimally invasive, endovascular procedures.