Dr. Neelima Paladugu

As Interviewed by Chatur Vallabhaneni, March 18-19, 2017

Dr. Neelima Paladugu

I didn't get discouraged so much. I think I was lucky enough to have parents who always encouraged me and who motivated me to become a doctor and who helped me be successful in my career. And with respect to professional life, I think in medical school I never realized that I am any different from anyone.

I know that you traveled from America to India, how did this change your view on women doctors and the rights that women should have?

Well that's totally a different experience I should say. As I said I came from a small village where I was the first kid to get into medical school and the first woman to get into a medical school rather. And it is a total lot different experience at that point of time women or girls, young girls, were only expected to grow big and become wives, moms -- and they are not expected to become doctors, but when I entered America, totally a different perspective. Women are more encouraged, they have more opportunities to achieve what they want. I was lucky to be born to my parents who always gave a lot of importance to girls’ education although that was not the idea with many parents at that point of time in our village. I was inspired. I was exposed to many magazines and inspiring people that I could read and things like that and there was a lady named Kiran Bedi who was actually in the Indian Police Services -- she was my motivation and inspiration actually. I felt if she could do a lot being a woman and if she could do/ achieve what she was doing and helping the society the way she was doing, I felt like: yes doctor is a different profession, but I will have more independence -- I won't have many political influences, and I can make a difference in the society by becoming a doctor. I could help people and that's what motivated me to become a doctor and a woman doctor as such. I believe that women can still achieve in fields where women were not there looking at her, actually. She is my inspiration and motivation. And unless you make some sacrifices, you may not be able to reach your goals.

Women are given rights to become doctors. I am happy that women are given more chances these days, but I would say that women are still expected to be a mom, a woman is still expected to be a wife, women have to fulfill multiple roles. She has to do multiple multi-tasking activities and it's very hard on women to do these because you only have 24 hours in a day and a woman is expected to wear different hats.

And you know being a doctor is not easy it involves a lot of sacrifices. Most of your life is devoted around patients, you won't have your personal life, you won't have your family life, and it's compared to military life where you leave everyone and you devote and dedicate your time and life to save the lives of patients -- and that could be one of the reasons why there are I would say less female doctors compared to male doctors.

Doctors help many people and like you there were many women who wanted to help other people but they weren't given the right to earn a medical degree until 1849. Do you recall ever doing anything to fight for women's rights?

I always believed that education is what's going to change a society -- so, the way I would say I helped is by giving community talks. I still do them. I tried to educate women around wherever I am and I try to give these community talks on women's rights, women's health, and especially women in cardiology. I have given many community talks, so that way women can be educated, women can know a lot about the rights, and a lot about their health, and things like that.