• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

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EXCLUSIVE: Meet Dr Jaivir Rathore, the Indian American physician who never forgets his duty towards motherland

A descendant of Mira Bai, a 16th century devotee of Lord Krishna, Dr Rathore is an accomplished name in neurology in the US and leads Doctors of Rajasthan International, a big diaspora physicians’ organisation in India.

Dr Jaivir Rathore (Picture: Dr Jaivir Rathore)

By: Shubham Ghosh

FOR many Indian Americans, the home is never too far from their heart, and they never let go of an opportunity to serve their motherland. Dr Jaivir Rathore, president and chief executive of Falcon Advanced Neurology & Epilepsy Freedom Center in Orlando in the US and one of the most accomplished neurologists in that country, is one among them. While he pursues his passion for medical science and practices in America, he also ensures that people in his own country, especially the less fortunate ones, do not go unattended.

One of Dr Rathore’s significant contributions to medical practices in India has been his work under Doctors of Rajasthan International (DoRI Foundation), one of the biggest diaspora physicians’ organisations in the world featuring experts from five continents and nearly 175 members. He is the founding and current president of the body which was formed under the auspices of the government of the north-western Indian state of Rajasthan to provide effective healthcare services to its most vulnerable individuals and communities and improve its medical education.

Dr Jaivir Rahore
Dr Jaivir Rathore in front of a poster of ‘Adopt A Village’ initiative (Picture: Dr Jaivir Rathore)

DoRI this year collaborated with the American Association of Physicians of India origin (AAPI), US, in doing preventive health screening free camps across India called ‘Adopt-A-Village’. The two organisations signed a memorandum of understanding in May to hold screenings in five villages initially in Rajasthan, and expanding gradually in other states.

India Weekly spoke to Dr Rathore, who resides in Orlando, Florida, about his journey as a doctor in India and the US, his inspirations and how he sees the state of the medical system in India.

Born in a navy family in Nangwara Kallan village in Nagaur district of Rajasthan and a descendant of 16th century Hindu mystic poet and Krishna devotee Mira Bai, Dr Rathore lived in different parts of India, including in the south and west as he grew up and returned to the city of Jodhpur in his home state after his father’s retirement. As someone who was fascinated by biology and wanted to make a career in medicine and admired doctors since his childhood, he crossed hurdles in India and the US to establish himself as a physician of high repute.

He joined NHL Medical College in Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat, considered its best medical school, and after graduating, cleared the United States Medical Licensing Examination to join Internal Medicine residency in Pennsylvania.

Dr Jaivir Rahore
Dr Jaivir Rathore treats a patient in his home state Rajasthan in India (Picture: Dr Jaivir Rathore)

However, his deep interest in neurology saw Dr Rathore switching to his field of specialisation and becoming a research fellow at The Cleveland Clinic, one of the best hospitals globally for heart treatment.

He published his work during his stint there in a Harvard University Journal Epilepsy & Behavior titled Validation of the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for depression screening in adults with epilepsy.

The study, which was funded by top American government research agency The National Institute of Health, became a guideline by the American Academy of Neurology in 2017.

He was also selected to train at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and served there as the Chief Epilepsy Fellow and later as an adjunct teaching faculty and vice-chairman of the Johns Hopkins Fellows Council.

Dr Rathore, who is also an authority in treating epilepsy, finds himself involved in several medical initiatives that enable him to contribute to public life in various countries, including the US and India.

Dr Jaivir Rahore
A medical camp underway in the Indian state of Rajasthan under Doctors of Rajasthan International initiative (Picture: Dr Jaivir Rathore)

“I am the first Indian American to become the co-chairman of Epilepsy Foundation of America’s Florida Chapter (the 3rd largest state in US). I have been serving on the Continuing Medical Education (CME) committee of American Epilepsy Society (the largest epilepsy professional org in the world).

“I am also the founding president of Doctors of Rajasthan International (DoRI Foundation). Through these leadership positions, I have got a global platform to raise awareness, inspire others to contribute to humanitarian/charity work, especially in the field of healthcare and medical education,” the doctor, who is married to Urjita Rathore, an information technology professional working for The Salvation Army USA and have a daughter Aditi who studies in the first grade, told India Weekly.

Speaking about the role that DoRI plays in Rajasthan, Dr Rathore said that it was formed during the Covid-19 pandemic when healthcare services were under severe stress. The state government led by former chief minister Ashok Gehlot decided to bring together NRI Rajasthanis from various walks of life through its organisation — Rajasthan Foundation — to invest towards the state’s development.

It was as part of this initiative that Dr Rathore and some of his fellow physicians came up with a group of doctors in March 2021 and he named it Doctors of Rajasthan International.

“Through the DoRI platform, we have done various charity work including the launch of an app Wondrx — a free consultation platform. DoRI doctors did many such free consultations during Covid-19 pandemic. This app was launched by former CM Gehlot. I personally have delivered multiple lectures at SMS Medical College and AIIMS Jodhpur and several webinars on virtual platforms such as Zoom,” he said.

Dr Jaivir Rathore
Dr Jaivir Rathore (R) addresses the Rajasthani diaspora to raise awareness about the ‘Adopt-A-Village’ initiative in Dubai, UAE, at an event organised by Rajasthan Business and Professional Group on the occasion of Diwali festival in November 2023. (Picture: Dr Jaivir Rathore)

The DoRI Foundation also has a Doctor’s OverSeas Training (DOST) programme and it has conducted multiple educational sessions with medical students, fresh graduates and doctors pursuing post-graduation in the US, UK and other countries.

“We have also been guiding Rajasthani medical students who were displaced from Ukraine, helping them rebuild their careers. We are building a grassroots network of doctors of Rajasthan overseas as well as those who practise in Rajasthan.

“Dori’s vision is to bring international standard of care and state of the art healthcare with special emphasis on cutting-edge technology to Rajasthan at the same time raise healthcare awareness and emphasize the importance of primary care in rural Rajasthan through our initiative of Mharo Gaanv Swasth Gaanv (My Village, Healthy Village).”

On DoRI’s collaboration with AAPI on adopting villages, Dr Rathore said they have so far adopted 70 villages across nine states in India, including six in Rajasthan and the goal is to make it 11 in the state by this month end. Next year, the initiative is set to expand under his leadership to include the two northern states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh and others as well.

For the doctor, it was a rerun of history when he came back to repay his motherland. While he himself used to be inspired by doctors during his growing up years, Dr Rathore received similar adulation at home when he became one.

‘American Ayush-Man of India’

“One of the heartwarming comments I received during one of the village camps was from a child who told me, “Docsab you are the American Aayush-Man of India”, referring to the likes of Superman and Spiderman, which was funny yet heartwarming for me. I see the love and appreciation in the eyes of these villagers, which makes me feel it’s worth it!” the doctor, a photography enthusiast and avid traveller, told India Weekly.

Dr Jaivir Rathore with his wife Urjita Rathore and their daughter Aditi.
Dr Jaivir Rathore with his wife Urjita Rathore and their daughter Aditi. (Picture: Dr Jaivir Rathore)

As someone who has been practising in the US for years now, how does he see the state of medical affairs in India today? Is significant progress visible or are there vast areas of improvement still?

According to Dr Rathore, healthcare in India has come a long way but what concerns him is a huge disparity in the quality of care available when one compares the cities with the rural areas. He feels worried that people in India see the doctor only when they are sick or that the country’s film stars, considered popular icons by billions, promote tobacco despite their serious ill effects on health.

Dr Rathore eyes awareness about preventive healthcare

Through the ‘Adopt-A-Village’ initiative, Dr Rathore aims to change the mindset and raise awareness about preventive healthcare instead of sick care through concepts such as annual wellness check-ups that many people do in the metros.

He said through detection of serious ailments such as hypertension, diabetes and kidney failure, the morbidity and mortality rates in India can be reduced which in turn puts less stress on the country’s tertiary healthcare system.

Dr Rathore takes a special pride in the fact that he belongs to a distinguished family in Rajasthan that has produced historical figures such as Rao Jodha Rathore, the founder of the city of Jodhpur, and the iconic Mira Bai, who was the niece of the doctor’s ancestor Viramdevji Rathore, grandson of Rao Jodha Rathore. He said his pedigree gave him a sense of responsibility to give back to his home state as a physician and he therefore takes care of people suffering from ailments, especially in the field of neurology.

The challenges of making it big in the US

It was not easy for the Indian-born doctor to accomplish what he has in the US today. While the field of medicine itself is tough, the challenge doubles when a non-American tries to achieve goals in the US. But Dr Rathore ensured that those obstacles did not stop him.

“Once an international medical graduate (IMG) like me goes through the struggle of making it in America, they have to face various challenges including being the third choice for various training programmes, (first are the American grads who are American citizens, second are American citizens who graduate from outside America such as Caribbeans and the third choice are the IMGs who are from some foreign medical school that most American programmes don’t know about and moreover they need visa sponsorship and most have some accent).

“For these reasons, it is very challenging to make it to residency or fellowship programmes in the US. I consider myself lucky that I made it to the most number one ranked hospital in the US, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the most number one ranked heart hospital in the world which is also the birthplace of interventional cardiology The Cleveland Clinic.

“I not only got selected to train at Johns Hopkins, but also served as the Chief Epilepsy Fellow and later an adjunct teaching faculty and vice-chairman of the Johns Hopkins Fellows Council. With continued efforts I have excelled and have achieved the status of the highest rated neurologist in the US (in patient satisfaction reviews across various online review platforms such as US News and World Report, WebMD, Healthgrades and others).

Dr Rathore’s upward journey continued as he trained at some of the top hospitals and joined a multispecialty group near Tampa, Florida, and bought the Falcon Medical Group Inc in March last year which he now leads as the president and CEO. He is one of the few physician entrepreneurs with two centers in central Florida and visiting consultant service in Dubai, UAE. He also does virtual telemedicine sessions in the Middle East, Caribbeans and Latin American nations.

When asked whether he experienced racism during his stay and practices in the US, he said he did but those remained limited to a few rural areas and smaller cities and not in bigger metropolitan cities that are more diverse and are home to a huge Indian diaspora population.

‘India needs to control its population’

While Dr Rathore believes that India has come a long way and witnessed major growth in several aspects of life, he also feels that it is time for the country to control its population in order to address disparity.

“I understand the majority of the Indian population is young in their 20-30s, but there is a mismatch between the progress she has made and the resources that are needed to serve such a large population. There are tier systems for healthcare, there are five-star-like hospitals for the rich but there are ill-equipped primary health centers for the poor in the rural areas as well. The rich, famous and those in power usually go abroad (mostly to the US or UK) for health care. This disparity in various aspects of life needs to be addressed, and one such measure is to balance and improve the population to resources ratio,” he told India Weekly. 

Emphasising on India’s requirement to strengthen its primary healthcare system that got exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Rathore said through initiatives such as ‘Adopt-A-Village’, they are doing their bit to raise awareness among people about preventive healthcare and annual wellness check-up.

“By the end of December 2023, we would have completed 75 plus villages across 9 states in India to celebrate the 75th year of Indian independence “Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav”,” he said.

For the doctor, it is “Pehla Sukh Nirogi Kaya, Doosra Sukh Ghar Me Ho Maya” (the first happiness is good health and the second happiness is financial prosperity) and he leaves no stone unturned to make it a reality in the country of his birth.

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