Technology doesn’t save lives, a critical decision made in a split second does.

Dr Lakshmi Prapoorna Reddy, our next pathbreaker, Emergency Physician at Columbia Asia Hospitals, deals with the emergencies of all departments, focused on providing a high level of emergency care for acutely ill and injured patients of all ages.

Dr Lakshmi talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about emergency medicine as an independent speciality that saves precious lives in a short span.

For students, every department in the medical profession is equally important. But bringing a life back without wasting crucial moments is special, because time never waits for anyone.

Lakshmi, your background?

I grew up in a family of graduates. My father is a landlord and agriculturist, and mother is a homemaker. We are 5 beautiful stars, “ Amma, Nanna, Ammama,  sister & me”.  I grew up seeing my parents helping people. I always wanted to be like them, helping others in need whenever possible. My late grandmother, “Poornalatha” had a dream that her granddaughter should be a doctor. My late grandfather “Ramachandra Reddy” also dreamt that his granddaughter should hold people’s hands and help them.

I enjoy photography and acting. I am also a dancer. But from childhood, I never had any second thoughts about pursuing my passion, which is to become a doctor.

What did you study?

I did my bachelors degree (MBBS) from Sri Devaraj Urs Medical College, Kolar. I have specialised in Emergency Medicine at Columbia Asia Hospital, Bangalore

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

I was influenced by my family. 

My grandmother (father’s mom)  used to say, “Whether I live or not, I want my family to stand for people in need”.

My late grandfather (mom’s father) used to say, “Your knowledge is your weapon. Carry it forward and never turn back at any moment “.

My parents used to tell me that a life is for one generation but a good name is forever.

My other grandmother used to say, “Be the reason behind someone’s heart beating every second.”

These words kept ringing in my mind everyday, and goaded me to do the things I dreamt of. Finally, I could see myself with an apron with the brightest jewel around my neck, the Stethoscope.

My sister was my biggest support system in all my ups and downs and my biggest influencer.

Initially, I had thought of becoming a pediatrician. When I met with an accident, I was lying in the casualty ward. This department was completely dependent on other departments. Then and there I decided with my bloodied body, subconscious yet strong and resolute, in that pain, that “I am going to be an emergency physician”. The value of a life is seen within that department. And I wanted to be that independent person who works on saving a life in crisis rather than being dependent.

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

I worked in different hospitals for 2 years after my MBBS, to know myself better and understand what I wanted to do. I felt proud and happy that I was independent, earning and learning as well.

Many professors/consultants/colleagues showed me better ways of approaching my dreams. That gave me immense confidence to be my best. Some of them were Dr. Bhaskar (HOD and Professor of General Surgery), Dr. Prathap (HOD & Dept of Emergency Medicine), Dr. Rahul Singh R (General Surgery & DNB Vascular Surgery), Dr. Vignesh Kumar(Consultant of Emergency Medicine).

Emergency Medicine is a new and emerging branch in the medical profession. Many countries (UK, Australia, Singapore) are offering great courses to pursue the subject with several benefits.

How did you get your first break? 

My biggest break was after my MBBS when I met with an accident. I couldn’t keep up with my best friends, which left me in depression. I couldn’t realise that i was emotionally shattered. My family and my 2 friends (Dr. Sindhura & Dr. Geethika) held me tight. Sri Sathya, who is more than my aunt, was my true inspiration who stood with me through all my ups and downs.

It is at that moment I realised the value of life. I never turned back after that. And here I am Dr Lakshmi Prapoorna (Emergency Physician).

Irrespective of the university or place, the medical profession gives you everything. It’s up to you to decide how you want to be. Every medico will have bitter memories that are totally buried by their successes. Though it is hard, never lose yourself in distractions in the university.

Parents also need to support their children rather than comparing them or complaining about them. Disrespecting leads to more distractions in the budding age group.

What were some of the challenges you faced? How did you address them?

By the time I decided to join MBBS, my family was in a financial crisis. My father held my hand and told me that if there was anything valuable he could give me, it is the knowledge and support (never compromise, go ahead & focus). He said, “Let me be the shield to support you”. The first page of my anatomy book still has traces of my tear drops.

I am a person who takes the bull by the horn when it comes to self-respect. The society around me tried to discourage me when they got to know that I was pursuing Emergency Medicine for my masters. A few of them raised eyebrows as to how a woman could manage family and emergency, saying emergency is risky and not meant for women.

Some even asked me if I was sure I could give CPR and bring life back? They recommended taking up Cosmetology or Modelling.

My family, especially my sister and Rahul (my boyfriend then, husband now) stood by me and told me to go ahead with my dreams and not bother about anyone else.

I have never been an exam person. But if you give me a patient, I would go ahead and carry out all my responsibilities successfully.

When asked a question, I stammer, and never answer half of the time because I lack self-confidence. That used to give my examiners and my seniors the impression that I am not fit for the profession. Dr. Vignesh, consultant and my colleague, helped me overcome the fear while answering. 

It’s simple when there is no hurry to answer the question. But when a patient with a specific condition asks a question, it is important to answer in a way that helps treat his/her condition. It took months for me to get that confidence. I am now much better at answering questions.

Where do you work now? Tell us about work in Emergency Medicine

I work with Columbia Asia Hospitals, which is a part of Manipal Group of Hospitals. As an Emergency Physician, I deal with the emergencies of all departments. Well, in order to pursue emergency medicine, you can take M.E.M/ M.R.C.E.M/ F.E.M DNB in Emergency Medicine after your MBBS.

As you deal with emergencies in your masters, you should have skills in Airway Stabilization, Intubation, Trauma Management procedures, suturing, inductions & minor anaesthesia techniques. 

What is a typical day like?

We manage everything in our team . We are a team of 2 doctors and 3 nurses working 12 hours. Due to the current covid situation, we are on our toes,  true adrenaline rush, i would say (high intensity neuron transmission and processing). 

With blood in our hands, beeps in monitors, we treat everything from MI (Myocardial Infarction) to acute strokes. We have our calm days too when we sit under a peepal tree.

What do you love about your job?

I don’t need any patient to remember me after discharge or through follow ups or gift cards.

I Am an emergency physician. I might sound rude or blunt. I may not sit and interact with patients for long periods of time. But you can feel and sense the positive change when there is an improvement from a flat pulse line to ROSC. That sight on the monitor from “Asystole” to “Sinus Rhythm” is the biggest achievement and pleasure I get every day. I love the fact that i am the reason that the patient’s heart is beating every second and the family is happy.

How does your work benefit society?

Every department in the medical profession is equally important to humans. When it comes to my department, as it comes to emergencies, we deal with emergencies. The value of our work is that we step in to save precious time in saving a person’s life in a short span.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you!

There was one moment during my masters when I had a patient, a young couple. Though I work in the main hospital, I do take extra shifts for better exposure. We had a young couple and the wife was in her 2nd trimester. The husband was brought to the hospital unresponsive for 10 minutes. We started giving CPR. But as 30 minutes passed, we started losing hope. My other colleague and I were still carrying on at the same pace. After about 1 hour of CPR, we got the rhythm back and shifted the patient to cathlab. Now they are a happy couple with a 5 month old baby. The wife came to thank me and we are good friends. She considers me a part of her family and the baby carries a part of my name, Poorna. Memory of this is a part of my soul.

 Your advice to students based on your experience?

Giving advice is very simple according to me. Your own journey should set an example to your own self. Once you have decided what you want to be, don’t give up your aspirations for society/ relatives or anybody.

As we all know, the process of achieving what we want will never be easy because you will experience failures and rejections. The world is so independent, at least in my profession. We learn from bitter experiences !

Stay calm and decide what you really want to do in the long run and strive for it.

Once chosen, no choice again. Keep repeating to yourself that you are an achiever and you can do it.

Family is with whom you can bend down and share your flaws. Talk open, think and move on.

Never ever compare yourself with others. Everyone has their own way of approaching their aspirations.

More than anything. Love yourself, stand up for yourself. Don’t give up in the middle.

It is your life and your journey. When questions arise, it is you who has to prove yourself. No time is wasted and it is never too late. 

Future Plans?

I want to do a fellowship in critical care management. I also want to write a book inspired by true incidents in my medical profession.

I also want to be involved in providing medical care for all irrespective of financial background (that is a big project 🙂 )