Interview by Yash Panchal
Dr. Rajiv Yeravdekar is currently the Director at SIHS Pune. He is also the Dean of Faculty of Health & Biological Sciences, SIU. He has completed his Masters in Obstetrics & Gynecology from B. J. Medical College, Pune & was awarded the Gold Medal for his outstanding academic performance. He has been awarded Ph.D. under the Faculty of Management by Savitribai Phule University, Pune. He has a total teaching experience of 32 years.
Dr. Rajiv was invited by the Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman from 1992 – 1996, where his work was highly appreciated. He has been a member of various Governmental bodies including Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI), Governing Council of Consultancy Development Centre (CDC), DSIR, Ministry of Science and Technology, Central Supervisory Board – PCPNDT, Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), Maharashtra Nursing Council (MNC).
Dr. Rajiv is a member of various professional bodies like the Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI); Indian Society for Critical Care Medicine (ISCCM); Society for Emergency Medicine in India (SEMI); Indian Healthcare Quality Forum (IHCQF), Indian Medical Association (IMA) & non-governmental organizations like FICCI, NATHEALTH etc. He is also a Member, Managing Committee, Symbiosis Society & Board of Management, Symbiosis International University. He has contributed a number of articles in various national and international journals.
Dr. Rajiv on his rewarding journey in the education industry
When I graduated from the prestigious BJ Medical College, Pune and then since I topped in Obstetrics and Gynecology, I enrolled for my MD. I was conferred with a gold medal at my MD exams for my outstanding performance. Then I joined the Maharashtra government as teaching faculty at BJ Medical college and Sassoon hospital. Since I wanted to pursue my membership exam with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, UK, I accepted joining the healthcare services with the Ministry of Health, Sultanate of Oman.
On return from Oman, I set up the Faculty of Health and Biological Sciences at the Symbiosis International University (SIU). SIU being a Deemed University, we had the academic autonomy and freedom to set up the courses and define our own syllabus, set up our own assessing norms and to develop the awarding title be it a certificate degree or diploma. So, I thought that this was giving me a wider academic coverage beyond obstetrics and gynecology in the wider change in the ecosystem of the Health Sciences. And therefore, I took up this responsibility of the faculty of health and biological sciences, way back in 2002. Initially, we set up the Symbiosis Institue of Health Sciences (SIHS) and down the years, we set up the Symbiosis College of Nursing (SCON), Symbiosis School of Biological Sciences (SSBS), Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences (SSSS) and now the Symbiosis School of Culinary Arts (SSCA). So, it has been a good rewarding journey.
An eye-opening experience of working with the Ministry of Health and family welfare at the Sultanate of Oman
The stint with the ministry of health and family welfare at the Sultanate of Oman was a watershed event because it opened my eyes and ears to a wider and a more holistic approach of healthcare beyond again obstetrics and gynecology. When we were posted at Al Suwaiq, primary health center and hospital, we realized that public health and health promotion were given a great deal of importance. Health promotions lectures were conducted in school by doctors of the primary health center. If a lady forgot to take her anti-tetanus injection during her antenatal period, they would first make a telephone call, then send her a postcard and if she still defaulted, the ambulance with the primary care doctors and nurse would go to the residence and administer the tetanus injection to the lady in her own home! This was the commitment to public health. As the result of which, Oman is among the few Gulf countries which have obtained the best and highest health indicators in the entire Gulf region. Promotion lectures are conducted by doctors who are dedicated for school health education lectures beyond their clinical duties.
So, it opened up my thought process and viewpoint towards how we address public health issues and concerns. And I believe that if a country like Oman can do this, a small developing country, with a visionary support of their Sultan, then why can’t we replicate the same model of health promotion and health education of public health in India. So, when we came back in 1966 to India, we thought of implementing the same ideas which we learnt for primary care delivery at school in Oman. Can we have every student undergo a mandatory health checkup? Can we have students being taught health education? Can we have students indulge in health-promoting activities? So we gave a project report to the symbiosis management that we would like to set up on campus healthcare unit.
At that point in time and probably even today, the concept of setting up the health care services on the campus of educational institutions was alien and so we were given a probationary period of 2 years where they said that if all the students are having their own family physicians, what are you going to do by providing health care services on campus of those educational institutes? We said that the students, given the academic priorities and responsibilities, peer pressure and so many other things tend to neglect their health and issues of accessibility and availability and therefore it needs to be addressed. Therefore, we need to have a health center on campus. So on 14th June 1997, we set up the first on-campus health care center called the Symbiosis Center of Health Care (SCHC) to provide preventive, curative and promotive health care services to the staff and students of symbiosis. And this was the genesis of establishing on-campus health centers in the educational institutions in India.
Source of inspiration to open SIHS and the challenges tackled as the Director of the institute
As a gynecologist, I was impacting and touching the lives of my patients. So, it was a one-to-one interaction and I would impact the health care status of my patients alone but in order to be able to impact a wider section of society, it was necessary to be involved in policy changes in order to affect a healthcare delivery to larger masses of population. I thought this was a good approach where I could move on from treating patients on a one-to-one basis to impacting policies, designing policies which can make an impact on the lives of a larger section of society. And what better way of doing it then by raising trained manpower and a cadre of professionals who would address health care delivery in its totality beyond obstetrics and gynecology alone?
Education, therefore, became the medium or the source for me to realize that this dream which I had in the early 90s or mid-90s. Therefore, the transition from the clinician obstetric gynecologist specialist to an academician where I would design academic programs which would train manpower at various cadres at various skill set and competencies who would then have a snowball effect on health care delivery in the community at large beyond obstetrics and gynecology alone.
Importance of internationalization in a country like India
Internationalization is in the DNA of Symbiosis. So, it has various facets at Symbiosis; in fact, the genesis of Symbiosis was through the process of internationalization way back in 1971. It is only today, that the world is or the Indian higher education system is talking about
the internationalization. Our Chancellor Dr. Mujumdar, the visionary thought of internationalization way back in 1971, that is a different story.
internationalization is a basic necessity into a collaborative world of academics where we believe more in cooperations and collaborations rather than competition
And internationalization, as I said, comes in facets of exchanging curriculums, signing MOUs, implementing MOUs, having scholars in residence, having curriculum exchange abroad, having semesters abroad, having a global immersion program. And we have a very robust Symbiosis Centre for International Education (SCIE) which provides the hand holding support in all support of internationalization the best practices in our chosen domains or faculties globally so the students which we train are world ready and not only India-ready.
Experience of being a member of many governmental bodies proved to be helpful at SIHS
This is a very important learning experience and whenever you work with the government circle or with any non-governmental organization or professional body. The first thing you learn is being tolerant to others’ viewpoint. Every time, what you say may not be the best option for collective wisdom.
You learn to understand other people’s viewpoint, the constraints of other people, to work in an ecosystem where there are multiple stakeholders.
The stakeholders could be the client, the regulators, the operators or anyone. Any organization or a force which operates in different capacities gives different viewpoints and considerations to the table. Therefore, every interaction at these different fora is a learning experience. And one tends to enhance one’s understanding, viewpoint and acceptance of different aspects with different stakeholders. I have been fortunate to have been involved with such great bodies of institutions.
Views on the Indian education system and improving the healthcare sector especially the healthcare education
Talking about the Indian education system, I would talk about health care field and not about education in general. In the healthcare sector, people are ignorant, people choose to be ignorant. People do not understand the importance of academics related to healthcare delivery. There is a lack of standardization of curricula, there is healthcare beyond medicine and there’s a need for integrative medicine, offering holistic healthcare services and there’s a need to benchmark with the best in the world. This is the direction where the healthcare academics related to healthcare needs to go.
Quantitative and qualitative placement opportunities for the students at SIHS
When we started the SIHS back in 2010, as a faculty, whether it was the technologists or the healthcare managers or the nurses, awareness was not so much. Progressively, with the constant harping on the academic instruction, making our students world-ready rather than just India-ready. Plus, the bandwidth and brand equity of Symbiosis has helped us to develop the quality of academic instruction and the faculty of Health & Biological Sciences. With the results, the placements of our students have increased both qualitatively and quantitatively.
When I say quantitatively, it is the pay package. When I say qualitatively, it is the wide range of organizations which employ our students. The diversity of the organizations, the repeat placements which happen year after year to seek our students. An important aspect of the quality of our academic instruction is the fact that quite a few of our students indulge in entrepreneurial initiatives to provide affordable healthcare.
There are quite a few students in every batch who opt out of the campus recruitment process and choose to be entrepreneurs, innovators, developers, and creators of job opportunities for others rather than running behind job opportunities.
Building a positive culture in the university with students coming from different backgrounds
Our institute like any other institute under Symbiosis International University has students from all states of India and from approximately 85 Afro-Asian countries across the globe. The Symbiosis Centre for International Education (SSCIE) is the nodal body which ensures a cultural integration of all the students from different states and different nationalities. There are soft integration opportunities such as the International Students’ Day which is celebrated on July 31st every year. There is an International Food Festival, International Sports Festival, International Blood Donation Drive where we encourage students from different cultures and communities to donate blood because the color of blood is the same across communities.
A lot of assimilation and cultural integration happens at Symbiosis wherein the students come, learn cultures from each other, eat, play, study, mingle and are tolerant and that leads to promoting internationalization through the medium of quality education on a global basis at Symbiosis. That is the motto of SIU. “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam”, the objective being to promote quality education, to promote international understanding through the medium of quality education.
Being available for the students with an open door policy
We have got an open door policy at all institutes of Symbiosis, which includes FOHBS. Students can walk-in with any problem. Faculty have formal interactions with them in class.
I Faculty have informal interactions with them in sports activities. We have an inter-institute cultural program called ‘PANACHE’ where all students participate in sports, cultural, dramatics and other events. Various informal forms of interaction where they can interact with me through emails, SMS or call on my mobile number, is also available to them. So, it is a free two-way traffic, not a one-way traffic from me to the students alone.
Goals to become a health promoting university
We are coming with Symbiosis University Hospital & Research Centre (SUHRC), which will be a state-of-the-art 216-bedded hospital, which will be scalable to 700 in years to come. We are setting up the Symbiosis Centre for Health Skills (SCHS), which will train all cadres of healthcare professionals in both clinical and non-clinical skills. The first of its kind facility in the country. We are seeking to enhance the program offerings under allied healthcare professionals and quite a few exciting things.
Today, we are working to develop SIU as the first Health Promoting University in the country. Abroad, this concept of a health promoting university is very well established. But in India, unfortunately, the concept is not so well understood. What it talks about is integrating health in the work, ethos, principles and practices of every initiative which the university undertakes whether it’s nutrition, exercise, work, play or academics. So, every aspect of the university’s functioning has an underlying base principle of health and health promotion. We are trying to develop SIU as a Health-Promoting University.
Suggestions for the youth
It is hard work, dedication, discipline, punctuality. There are so many aspects but if you know your destination, you can always plan your journey. Please note to plan your journey for if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!