Dr. Shakuntla Kumar in conversation with Siddhi Joshi & Jaya Narayan for HER-WORLD
“I make money as a doctor, but that is not the purpose of my living. The purpose of my living is to serve mankind, in the noblest way possible,” says Dr Shakuntla Kumar, head and founder of NuLife Hospital and Maternity Center, New Delhi.”
The year of 2020, along with all its tremendous tragedies and despairs has also highlighted some remarkable and indispensable people in our society: healthcare workers. We bring to you, Dr. Shakuntla Kumar who has brought light into so many lives throughout the pandemic. The way she speaks about her work with utmost passion, it is difficult to believe her when she says that becoming a doctor was not always her goal. As a young girl, from an average middle class family, who attended a government school, she never considered medicine as a career. Doctors, to her, were other-worldly, intriguing creatures, not someone she could aspire to be. She credits her decision to her highschool teacher who convinced her to go to medical school. Moreover, growing up, her mother’s health was very fragile, and she felt helpless, there was a desire to understand the cure that would treat her mother. The profession, it seems, chose her.
The journey as a doctor hasn’t been free of hurdles. She has always been bright of a student, but medical skills can only carry you so far in the field of healthcare. There is a human element to the job that is not taught, it can only be learnt from experience. “It is a lifelong process”, she exclaims with a smile. Dr. Shakuntla, today, is proud of the precious relationships that she has cultivated with her patients over the years.
The pandemic of Covid-19 caught us all off guard indeed, our healthcare system, most so. “Hospitals had to make a choice between working as Covid or Non-Covid hospitals. Nulife decided to continue working as a non-covid maternal care hospital.” she says.
Even so, the work hasn’t been easy. The patients had to be segregated on basis of their COVID statuses: unconfirmed cases separate, negative cases separate, positive cases referred to COVID hospitals. They began offering teleconsultation services as well unless visitation to the hospital was absolutely necessary. It wasn’t until the third wave that they began adapting effectively to the nuances that came into light in lieu of the virus. Nevertheless, against all odds and comforts, Dr. Shakuntla and her team worked hard day and night to make sure that there were no transmissions or fatalities in the hospital.
The emotional aspect of the pandemic has not been easy on doctors like Dr Shakuntla. Fear of infecting her family members kept her separated from her elderly parents and children. Not just that, she also tragically lost her husband, a COVID ICU doctor, to the pandemic, back in June. “It wasn’t just my own loss, it was a loss to my family, my children and the hospital community. I had to console all of us,” she explains. The day after her husband’s passing, Dr. Shakuntla was back in the Operating Theatre. “I was feeling numb like a functional robot but my sacred work is not something that can be side-tracked, there are human lives I work with.” We at Her-World, salute and admire her courage and strength.
Dr. Shakuntla consoles us with another bright smile, “Life only throws at you what you can handle.” Her faith and strong beliefs in the grand working of the universe keep her going and growing as she brims like the fountain of life itself, sharing wisdom and truth of the world to the passersby. She considers herself a spiritual person, perhaps that is an explanation for her commitment to altruism.
She strongly believes in the virtue of giving back to society and looks forward to contributing to the rural healthcare systems, as well. Speaking about the less than ideal healthcare conditions of women there, Dr. Shakuntla is full of solutions. She proposes a network of like-minded doctors committed to the cause, come together to provide telecom healthcare, organise regular healthcare camps in remote areas and free of cost treatment to those in need. This can uplift to a great extent the limping arena of rural healthcare, she explains. She is grateful for every opportunity that the country has adorned her with and is more than willing to spread the glee of good health as far as she can.
ndividuals like Dr. Shakuntala Kumar are benevolent saviours to humanity. Thousands of selfless, determined doctors have kept not only India but the world afloat during this pandemic. We as ordinary citizens are eternally grateful to them.