[100 Emerging Women Leaders] Meet Dr Madhuri Roy, who became a doctor by studying in the light of oil lamps
She didn’t have it easy as a child, but Madhuri Roy didn’t let that stop her. Rising from the morass of rural poverty, she went on to make books for her best friend and join medical school.
Years later, Dr Madhuri Roy is renowned gynaecologist, laparoscopic surgeon, and IVF expert with experience of over 15 years in the Middle East. She has patients from around 17 nationalities, and is now working to make IVF affordable and accessible to all those who need it.
In 2019, she launched Pune-based, a unit of CSRM Life Healthcare. The award-winning IVF centre provides end-to-end treatment - fertility assessment for male/female, IUI, ICSI, IVF, TESA, PESA, PCOS, fibroid treatment, fertility preservation, egg, sperm donation, embryo donation, laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, assisted hatching, and surrogacy.
In an interview with HerStory, Madhuri tells us what inspired her to become a doctor, how her early days moulded her, her learnings from her academic and professional life, and all about her IVF centre.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
HerStory (HS): Tell us about your background and what led you to medicine?
Dr Madhuri Roy (MR): I was born in remote village Visapur, 165 kms from Nagpur in Maharashtra. The village had no access to education, sanitation, and healthcare. My parents were poor and uneducated but dreamed a colossal dream: making their child a doctor.
My grandfather died due to snake bite while working in a farm due to lack of medical treatment. This, and the pain I saw in my father's eyes, made me determined to be a doctor. I remember visiting a physician and keenly observing his ways at the age of five. Back then, the injection and stethoscope were my most favourite attractions.
Our poverty meant immense struggles. At the age of 11, I travelled from a village to the nearby city, walking miles to catch a bus, and did all of my studies in the light of a small oil lamp. I also helped my mother in daily chores, carrying a pot of water and walking kilometres almost daily.
HS: How did your early days shape your personality?
MR: Along with the importance of education, my parents instilled in me the values of humanity and morality. We had very little to eat, but I saw my house filled with guests and relatives. Seeing my parents helping them out with whatever possible taught me the real meaning of life; I learnt about compassion and service to mankind.
My parents are my first teachers; they also introduced me to Buddha, the greatest teacher on the planet and my guiding light.
HS: How did you join medical school? Tell us about your learnings?
MR: It was only when we moved to Nagpur that we witnessed the luxury of city life. I completed Classes 11 and 12 grade from Shivaji Science College, one of the most prestigious science colleges. I soon qualified from Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sevagram, to study medicine. I became a doctor without buying a single book; I did all my studies from the college library established for needy students.
MGIMS Sevagram had a rule that students must serve rural India for two years before post-graduation. I worked for two years in Attapalli, a remote Naxalite area, and witnessed the pain and lack of healthcare.
Here, I met Dr Prakash Amte and his wife who had taken healthcare to the remotest and poorest areas of the forest. I experienced the real joy of providing healthcare to those villagers. I have delivered babies in primary health centres with almost no facilities and equipment; even before I went for my post-graduation I had delivered more than 5,000 babies.
After practising in Mumbai, my husband and I moved to Muscat, Oman, where I served as obstetrician and gynaecologist for 15 years. I sharpened my skills, upgraded my knowledge, and did a laparoscopic surgery Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery (FMAS) from World Laparoscopy Hospital.
I trained in reproductive medicine and endocrinology from Charles’s University of Czech Republic, and got a master’s in reproductive medicine and IVF from Homerton University NHS in London (UK).
I am happy that I have more than 7,000 satisfied and happy patients worldwide from more than twenty nationalities.
HS: What got you to start up in the IVF space and launch ConceiveIVF?
MR: ConceiveIVF started in Pune India as a result of my internal calling and the amalgamation of all the high standard European healthcare facilities that I had the opportunity to work for.
I have personally seen infertility multiplied with issues of affordability, causing depression and breaking families. I felt why not provide the best facility and technology to people. Conceive IVF aims for a holistic approach, and offers evidence-based genuine and transparent services to patients.
The cost of IVF centre goes into crores, varying according to the cycles, city, and other criteria . Our treatment is affordable, and we provide one free IVF cycle per month to families from economically weaker sections.
However, building the facility in India while working as a doctor in Oman was a logistical challenge. We travelled every two weeks to Pune for a year to manage the project and ensure work was being done as per the prescribed standards.
I played multiple roles - interior designer, engineer, accountant, director, entrepreneur, coordinator, brand expert, and more. In this whole journey, I got tremendous help from government authorities in establishing this facility. And whatever money we earned abroad, we invested back into this.
HS: How did the pandemic impact the segment?
MR: ConceiveIVF started in 2019 and the biggest pandemic of the era struck us in 2020. I have seen the best and worst behaviour of the humankind at the same time. The whole situation was disastrous for the new business. People were so scared; suddenly, all our staff fled to their hometowns.
Running a huge facility amid the sudden lockdown became a challenge, but ours never closed down. I caught COVID-19 and was hospitalised for three weeks. Luckily, I survived and I returned to my daily responsibilities as a doctor at ConceiveIVF in the midst of lockdown.
We equipped our facility with COVID safety protocols and equipment, daily toolbox talk, and donned ourselves in PPEs to fight the invisible enemy. We restarted our facility as soon as it was possible and experienced the joy of our patients conceiving and delivering babies in the midst of the pandemic. This was our ultimate award.
During the second wave, we teamed up with a local organisation and helped people across Maharashtra to get oxygen beds, ICU beds, and ventilators.
HS: What are the biggest challenges you face?
MR: Lack of awareness is the biggest challenge. People need to be made conscious about the role the right lifestyle, nutrition, health, and exercise play in infertility. I want to start a mass awareness campaign among societies and NGOs as I believe 50 percent of infertility cases are caused due to poor lifestyle. Changing this can help more and more couples conceive naturally -- conception and childbirth are natural processes.
Our aim is to serve people in the remotest corner, and we want to make it as affordable as we can.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai