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Frontline Warriors in a Pandemic

Recent events have shown us how rapidly a new disease can take root and spread. Sinceits outbreak in China, the Coronavirus has killed and infectedtens of thousands of people across Asia, and is continuously spreading world-wide. The entire world is at seize. There is a lockdown. You can’t step out of your homes under normal circumstances. In such desperate times when people are advised to stay indoors and maintain social distancing, there are numerous courageous and brave women working on the frontlines as doctors and nurses.

One such example is of a woman who made our country’s first testing kit during her last stage of pregnancy. VirologistMinalDakhaveBhosale headed the team that designed the Coronavirus testing kit, called Patho Detect, at Mylab. Ms. Bhosale is the research and development chief of Mylab Discovery in Pune – the first Indian firm to get full approval to make and sell Coronavirus testing kits. She can be quoted as saying, “It was like giving birth to two babies”. Such is the vigor of a woman.

Women have always played an indispensable role in the fight against any health pandemic. They are always there as health care workers, as scientists and scholars, as social assemblers, as community peace builders and connectors, as caregivers.Some worthy mentions are Florence Nightingale, a 19th- century statistician and founder of modern nursing, who understood the benefits of hygiene and sanitation in preventing disease.FeFe del Mundo a paediatrician from the Philippines, who went on to do pioneering work on infectious diseases including dengue, was the first female student at Harvard Medical School. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, born shortly after Florence Nightingale, taught herself French so that she could obtain a medical degree at the University of Sorbonne in Paris.KadambiniGanguly was one of the first female graduates in the entire British Empire and became the first female practitioner of western medicine not just in India, but in the whole of South Asia.Anandi Gopal Joshi was one of the first Indian female doctors, appointed physician-in-charge at a hospital in central India, before she died of tuberculosis aged just 22.Dr. Indira Hinduja successfully delivered India’s first test tube baby in 1986. She continued her passion for innovation and helping patients in the field of assisted reproduction and went on todevelop the Gametre Intra Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) technique which enables fertilization in a fallopian tube instead of a test tube. Dr. Firuza Parikh gave not just to India but South East Asia it’s first Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) baby that has helped many infertile couples to have babies.

In 2019, however, women are still only a third of researchers worldwide, on average. Women struggle to rise up the ranks of both health and science. Women make up just 12% of the membership of national science academies around the world. Female health workers comprise 70% of the health workforce worldwide, yet women occupy only 25% of leadership positions in health(Reported by WHO). We are all very much aware that the gender differences exist, and also that there should be equal professional opportunities for all genders. Sadly we have a very long way to go to meet this goal. 

Finding one’s own path, finding personal fulfillment in one’s career and personal life, resisting the stresses of the medical profession, and helping patients, are all at the heart of success for these female physicians.A salute to all those doctors who by dedication, personal care and efforts have helped in saving lives and restoring the health of patients across the globe.