By Dr Ratna Magotra
I write this on behalf of many women cardiac surgeons practicing in India and abroad. Our existence was denied a few days back by a Kerala-based Sunni leader A P Aboobacker Musliar when he questioned if there was even a single woman among the thousands of cardiac surgeons.
I personally feel that it does not matter at all even if Musliar’s statement was true and there is no woman cardiac surgeon. It does not upset me for it does not diminish a “woman” in any way. But I am definitely incensed that he thinks women are “fit only for delivering babies”! This is regressive and most offensive and I am glad that so many Muslim leaders and scholars have panned the Maulana. Such irresponsible statements have become so common that the first reaction is to ignore such people and not put their ignorance on a premium. Well wishers and friends, however, demand that the record should be set straight on such misleading statements.
There are many women cardiac surgeons in India and indeed in the world. I have been a member of “Women in Cardiac Surgery “, a forum at the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons (AATS) that used to meet on the sidelines of the AATS annual conferences. I studied for my MBBS degree at the Lady Hardinge Medical College in Delhi, where women headed most of the surgery departments. My professional career after post-graduation in General Surgery and Cardio-Thoracic surgery involved practice in highly competitive and specialized field of cardio-thoracic surgery in large teaching hospitals like Nair and KEM hospitals in Mumbai. The patients who came to these hospitals from all over the country and neighboring countries never showed any discomfort for being operated upon by a woman, contrary to what Mr. Aboobacker may like to believe. They trusted the competence as well as the compassionate hands of women cardiac surgeons. It may also surprise the Maulana that many years back, a revered Peer Saheb from Lucknow came to KEM hospital for his bypass surgery. While I was a little apprehensive, seeing the big retinue that accompanied him, he seemed to have no such worry. He and his followers showed their gratitude by showering me with rose petals after the successful operation! I was indeed touched by his love and respect and the fact that he did not have a trace of any bias against women.
I have also had the pleasure of training many men and women in the specialty.
There are distinguished women colleagues in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, and elsewhere who have worked and performed with distinction in the demanding specialty of cardio-thoracic surgery.
Maulana Aboobacker may be shocked to know that there are Muslim women cardiac surgeons who I mention with great pride if only to expose his ignorance and arrogance. I had a colleague from Turkey training with me at the Guy’s hospital, London way back in 1982; I met another young woman from Saudi Arabia who was training at the Boston Children Hospital to become a pediatric cardiac surgeon! Recently my colleague, Dr. Vivek Jawli from Bengaluru lauded Dr. Nemam Ghafouri, a, Kurdish heart surgeon who had trained in Switzerland and was training with him in Beating heart bypass surgery. She has since gone back to Kurdistan to realize her dream of building a heart centre for her people.
It is perhaps the right time that Musliar and others of his ilk get educated to shed their prejudices. Women should be left alone and unshackled to pursue their dreams.
Dr. Ratna Magotra is former Professor and Chief Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, KEM Hospital, Mumbai. She’s currently Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Smt. S R Mehta & Sir K P Cardiac Institute, Mumbai
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