Meet Goa’s first female orthopaedic surgeon

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RAMANDEEP KAUR | NT KURICOITY

It is a moment of pride for Nandini Padte and her family as she is the first girl to take up Master of Surgery (MS) in Orthopaedic Surgery in the history of Goa Medical College, Bambolim.

Nandini did her schooling from Mushtifund Higher Secondary School after which she answered the entrance exam and then took up MBBS in Goa Medical College (GMC).  She then joined the post graduation course and stood first in MS exams held recently.

Speaking on why she chose orthopaedic surgery, Nandini says she always wanted to be a surgeon but the turning point came when she was doing her internship: “There are no women orthopaedic surgeons in Goa so I had no female role model as such. During my internship I was in the casualty in the emergency room and a man came with a dislocated shoulder and there was a senior orthopaedic surgeon who asked ‘why don’t you address the issue?’ and that he would supervise. I managed to reduce the dislocation in one attempt and then it clicked!”

She then started going into the operating theatre regularly to see the procedures and got drawn to it even more but refused talking about it because people would say it is not a specialisation for girls. “So I started doing research on my own, looking up the internet and I found that there are a few women orthopaedic surgeons in Maharashtra, Australia, Sweden who are doing well and then I said, why not?” Nandini adds.

Stating that growing up in a family surrounded by people with a scientific outlook where both her parents are doctors, the love for science came naturally to her with an inclination towards biology.  Nandini’s parents, Jayashri and Kedar Padte are practicing obstetricians and gynaecologists at Panaji and have always been supportive of her choices. Nandini adds: “My parents taught me two things – that you have to have freedom and you have to be fearless. If there were restrictions put on me, maybe I would have been a different person but definitely not as bold, fearless and independent as I am now. If I had taken arts instead of science they would not have judged me any differently, they would have encouraged me the same way if I had chosen to be a chef or a musician.”

Nandini also says that her parents’ support was what got her through her orthopaedic surgery course when things were tough: “There were days when I used to come back home after three days of duty at 11p.m. I would just fall asleep and the next day go back to work, with no proper food. And my parents were concerned of course but they were supportive; they used to pick me up and say yes you can do it!”

Although education was always a priority in the house it was not the only thing her parents wanted her to do, they promoted well in physical activities, art, swimming, Bharatanatyam performances too.  She is a trained swimmer and also holds a black belt in Shotokan Karate. Nandini says: “My Karate coach Pradeep Narvekar trained me and I think that contributed a lot to the confidence that I required.”

Speaking about the reasons why women are not willing to take up the specialisation, she says that it is a physically challenging field. “But it is not impossible, initially it was difficult because you are on duty sometimes for 36 hours straight without sleep, food and you are just running around all the time.”

Sharing her own experience, she says that in the first two months she developed blisters on her feet but did not want to be treated differently than a man. “You want to be treated equally and I have to say that my guide Shivanand Bandekar was a father figure to all of us, others were there to guide me if I ever needed anything but there was no favouritism. I was treated the same as any male would have.”

Nandini further says that once they found out that she was not going to back out the senior doctors accepted her into their family. “I had wonderful seniors; they all taught me and wanted me to see every kind of surgery and assist every kind of procedure.”

Commenting on the medical scenario in Goa, she says that there is one tertiary care centre – Goa Medical College and it has to cater to the whole of Goa, and the bordering areas of Sawantwadi and Karnataka. “We got to see a lot of patients and got a lot of experience too, so it is a boon and bane both,” Nandini adds.

On her thought about the saturation of the medical field in Goa, Nandini says:  “It is true about every field. Even in Mumbai it is saturated. In a span of 10 kilometres you will find 250 orthopaedic surgeons itself. So everywhere the market is full; it is about how well you can do and how differently you can do things. If you are good, people will come to you.”

Encouraging women, she says that if they want to take up any profession they should do it with conviction, “I want to tell them that it is not a physical thing, it is a mental thing, if you are mentally strong you can take on anything, the rest will follow. I want them to be bold and fearless. When you know what you want, the entire universe supports you. All women should try and pursue graduation, post graduation because education makes you confident.”

When asked whether she plans to work in or out of Goa, Nandini replies: “I love Goa very much and maybe eventually I will work here. As far as education and studies go I think I want to give myself a chance to study maybe in one of the cosmopolitan cities, get exposed to what is happening out there and go abroad for few years. It exposes  you to how other people look at things and it is nice to learn  and I think Goa is still small, it is still growing so we need to go out, learn a little more and then come back. As of now I do not know, I will see where life takes me.”