All through the Covid 19 crisis, undeterred female nurses, vaccinators, doctors, pharmacists, and lab experts have been at the forefront of healthcare. These women formed the very backbone of the Covid 19 response worldwide. Closer home also we saw a plethora of such exceptional female healthcare professionals handle the curve ball being thrown by the pandemic. One among these women of steel is Dr. Jothi Neeraja Satyananda, CEO of People Tree Hospitals; who takes pride in admitting the very first private ICU Covid 19 patient in the entire city of Bangalore.
Dr. Jothi, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist is an inspiration to many women aspiring to foray into the field of healthcare. With over 25 years of experience in the field of healthcare, she aims to provide everyone the kind of healthcare which we want for ourselves, our family and friends.
In an exclusive interview with the Women Entrepreneur Team, Dr. Jothi takes us through her stellar journey of entrepreneurship in the field of healthcare.
Introduce us to people tree hospitals. What facets about the healthcare institution makes it unique in the market?
People Tree Hospitals is a super-specialty hospital which was started by a group of like-minded doctors with an aim of reaching out to every patient who are in need of healthcare. Friends and Family came together to start this hospital in 2013 in Bangalore. Later, we started four other multi-specialty hospitals in the city itself. We are a referral hospital, and we receive referrals from other states too. Our low prices in comparison to our counterparts set us apart. We make no compromises in terms of quality, patient care, treatment outcome, and brand.
Our Feather in the Cap is our Unique Stand-Alone Hospital for Mental Health called People Tree MAARGA which was started in 2016. The hospital is unique by the presence of an exclusive licensed psychiatric unit. Under one roof, the unit houses an, an exclusive retrieval team for 24/7 emergency psychiatric retrievals, critical in-patient admissions, de-addiction center, child psychiatric services, and old age psychiatric services. At People Tree MAARGA we abide by the mental healthcare act.
Take us through your early educational and professional journey? What motivated you to venture into the field of healthcare?
A Doctor is respected by all in the society. Even as a child I always wanted to know how it will be to be a doctor, saving lives, treating the needy and being respected. I also did well in school and was one of the top rankers. My father who was a government employee had always insisted that education is the only thing that can make our lives better and made sure the three of us (all three daughters!) got good education. Both my sisters are also very well educated in professional fields and are leaders in their respective areas!
I received a free seat in Government Medical College, Thanjavur. After my graduation I got married. My partner is a general surgeon cum Urologist. After marriage, we both pursued our PGs.
I did my PG from JJ MMC, Davangere and then went to Apollo, Chennai for my specialty training. Upon returning to my In-laws' place, (a family full of doctors!) I joined my father in law Dr. Naganna, the first qualified surgeon for entire Kadapa district. Along with that, we later started Abhishek Kidney and Maternity Hospital in Kadapa in 1998.
Like Father, Like Son; my husband Dr. Upendra Kumar was the first Urologist for Kadapa district. He was well trained in kidney transplant, but in Kadapa the set up was not available to do kidney transplants, so we had to move to Bangalore. I worked at different hospitals post which I joined group of friends to start People Tree Hospitals. They say, "There is a woman behind every man's success". But the man behind my success and People Tree is my husband, Dr. Upendra Kumar!! He was the biggest support to me and the organization.
I have two sons, Abhishek is a doctor pursuing MBA Healthcare Management in the prestigious John Hopkins University in the US who will be coming back to India to take up Healthcare Management in India. Abhinav is working for an Artificial Intelligence based Company in Bangalore.
Take us through some of the major challenges that you faced during the early days of establishing people tree hospitals.
To establish a hospital, we need people who share the same vision. We needed partners who would take care of every responsibility at the hospital, trust us, and work with us. So finding them, convincing them, and bringing the entire team to the same platform was a bit difficult in the early days.
“We put our hearts and souls into it and took on every responsibility at the hospital, right from planning the interiors and designing the uniforms, purchasing, recruitments to treating the patients”
We put our hearts and souls into it and took on every responsibility at the hospital, right from planning the interiors and designing the uniforms, purchasing, recruitments to treating the patients.
The second challenge was `capital', because every equipment is extremely expensive, and we also had difficulty raising funds. We had to sell our properties in order to put the money into the hospital.
Tell us about your expertise as a leader in the healthcare industry. What different roles and responsibilities does your current role as ceo entail at people tree hospitals?
I am an obstetrician, clinician and gynecologist with more than 25 years of experience. I have been with the core management team at People Tree Hospital right from the inception. I also started the obstetrics and gynecology department at People Tree Hospital and Birth Tree, a birthing unit. I have been the integral part of Starting-up of every department, every unit, its operations and growth.
At People Tree Hospitals, P stands for patients. They are always the first priority; that is the pivot of everything. Patient being the focus, my responsibilities are end to end, I expect all my employees right from security to the top doctors to follow the principal of 'Patient First'.
People Tree Hospitals was started with a mission to provide the kind of healthcare which we want for ourselves, our family and friends. My responsibility includes keeping up of the healthcare standards and updating with evolving technology and make sure we follow 100 percent ethical practice. E in PEOPLE stands for being Ethical and O for Open and Transparent.
As the ceo of people tree hospital, how do you drive growth within the organization?
Every employee at the hospital is expected to act in a leadership capacity. I want every staff member to treat the hospital as their own hospital. I don't have a management degree, and was a dedicated clinician, but I believe that every one of us has a leader within us who can manage things. This leadership quality emerges when you take up bigger responsibilities. Don't wait for your superiors to tell you to do; start taking responsibility on your own.
How did you lead people tree hospitals to deal with the various challenges brought about by covid19?
Peoples Tree Hospital was the first hospital in the whole of Bangalore to admit the first private ICU Covid patient as early as March 2020. Covid-19 was the new disease to treat, so we were learning new SOPs, following the protocols set by the ICMR, WHO; everyday was new learning for us. We made sure that the entire staff is protected Staff safety was our priority as they were the front line warriors; arranged transportation for them during the lockdown, provided one free meal at the hospital for all our staff everyday before their shift ends. Our management ensured that the entire staff was covered under Corona Kavach Insurance Policy. We had to have regular motivation meetings for our frontline workers to boost their morale during the tough times.
We provided 50 percent of our beds to the BPL patients who came under Govt. scheme. Not only our doctors, but all other clinical and non-clinical staff involved completely in fighting the pandemic by taking various roles and responsibilities. People Tree Hospitals was at the forefront even in the vaccination program.
Given the nature of your job, how do you strike a balance between your work and home life?
It is very simple, because I manage the hospital as I manage my home. I strongly believe that if you can manage your home well, you can manage your work place as well!! In the same way whether I work or get the work done, I am responsible to make sure the work is completed. I feel my workplace as my home, the way I am at home is the same way that I am in my workplace. I don't feel it differently. Hence, it makes it much easier and simpler!!
What would your words of advice be to young women aspiring to foray into the field of healthcare?
Aspire into the field of healthcare only if you are passionate about it and this is not only for women but for everyone. Always be in the forefront to take up responsibilities, don't wait for somebody to give you responsibilities. I believe that every women has that inbuilt power to lead. Take inspiration from our ancestors who were not fully educated but still stood up and took various roles and the family responsibility. We being well educated and surrounded by advanced technology why can't we be the leaders and being a doctor itself is being a leader because a doctor will be advocating for so many good things and has to take up various responsibilities. I strongly believe women make good leaders because we are good at crisis management.