Interview: Dr. Kamini Rao, Padma Shree Awardee and legendary name in Indian fertility sector

This interview is a part of Startup Terminal interview series to mark the occasion of 'International Women's Day' Dr. Kamini Rao, is a legendary name in Indian fertility sector. The pioneer of Assisted Reproduction Treatments (ART) in India, with more than four decades of dedicated experience in the sector she was awarded with Padma Shree and as always’ been, her name is synonymous with hope to quite a number of aspiring parents.

ST: Please tell us more about yourself.

Dr. Kamini Rao: For over three decades, I have been fortunate to play an integral role in shaping the fertility landscape of the country. Being one of the pioneers in Assisted Reproduction Treatments in India, I have been instrumental in setting up South India‘s first Semen Bank as well as engineered South India’s First Babies born through ICSI (Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) and Laser Assisted Hatching.

It was a great moment to receive Padma Shri from honourable President, Mr Pranab Mukherjee for my contributions to the world of reproductive medicine. Another hearty achievement which has recently come to me is, to be appointed by Merck as the Brand Ambassador for fertility treatments in Africa and Asia, the first Indian to win the honour. I have also been recognized as the Global Asian of the year in January.

Even as I rejoice in all these honours, I still believe I have lots to do in the world of medicine and society at large. I believe in empowering women through health, enabling them to make informed decisions about their lives and fostering in them a new lease of life to face all challenges in life, gracefully.

ST: Who is your biggest influence in life?

Dr. Kamini Rao: My key influence in life has been the pioneers of IVF. I have drawn so much inspiration from them that I would like to leave behind similar outstanding contributions to the world of reproductive medicine for the future generations to follow.

ST: What challenges do you face in your day to day professional life, if any?

Dr. Kamini Rao: Today, medical profession is becoming a business rather than a noble profession. The relationship between patients is unfortunately condescending to a money-minded business relationship. In the past, no patients sued the doctor as we see in the present scenario. Physicians were highly respected in the society in those times. Corporatization of healthcare has made it like any other business that doctors are no more regarded as infallible. Even medical profession is increasingly being influenced by profit motives. The doctor-patient relationship has turned into a virtual ‘consumer provider’ service and this is the major challenge faced by most of the medical professionals of the day.

ST: Where do you want to see yourself in next 5 years down the line?

Dr. Kamini Rao: I believe that there is more to any profession that you practice, than what meets the eye. I want to initiate a change that does more than talking. There is a certain kind of stereotyping that is associated with women and it isn’t any different in case of women and their relations with motherhood. I want to push the society to allow women to dream, to work towards their dreams and not let phases like motherhood become a hindrance to that. Women need to understand that their life is not meant to be a competition to earn certificates and compliments from the world around. She needs to initiate a reversal in her roles, where she is considered not just a ‘taken for granted’ personality but someone who completely values her time. She needs to become a priority for her family as well. I see myself as someone who will relentlessly work towards a better society in not just the next 5 years, but further than that!