Dr Snehal Deshpande, 57, is a paediatric physiotherapist with a difference. She is not only constantly innovating practices in paediatric therapy, but also adding a spiritual dimension to it. She recently received the Physio Ratan award in recognition of her contribution to the field of paediatric physiotherapy. S Balakrishnan spoke to her about her work and experiences. Excerpts from an interview:
When and how did your medical career start?
I completed by graduation in physiotherapy from GS Medical College in 1988. It was the only college for physiotherapy then. I was very keen on becoming a neurosurgeon, but fate decided otherwise. My father died when I was a child and my mother was not educated to give career guidance. But she gave me good schooling and strong values. And I owe my success entirely to her. When I did not get a chance to pursue my ambition, I met a man in KEM Hospital who suggested I go for physiotherapy. And I haven’t looked back after that.
Any particular reason why you chose to specialise in paediatric physiotherapy?
I had the privilege of working under Dr Sanjay Oak of KEM Hospital. Once he saved the life of a child whose case was hopeless. I then decided to focus on providing physiotherapy to children, specially those who are challenged physically and otherwise. I was in Wadia Children’s Hospital from 1990 to 2000 and there I gained a lot of experience working among children. I am doing this more in a spirit of service than anything else. I decided to start a centre of my own so that I could put my vast experience and innovations into practice. So I started a centre in just one room in Shell Colony, Chembur. All I had was a chatai (mat). From there my centre has grown by leaps and bounds.
What kind of changes do you see in the type of children who come to you over the years?
Earlier it was largely victims of polio and cerebral palsy. Now there is a need for neuro development, which demands engagements in school, family and the society at large. Morbidity has increased now. But now we are gaining genetic insights, which we lacked earlier.
I learned that you are heavily into spiritual practices.
Well, my mom threw all gods out of our home and talked about meditation. I came across people who are practising the Heartfulness Way as shown by Daaji, who is a spiritual guru. Initially I was a bit sceptical. But when I started those practices myself I found them extremely useful. These practices show you how to use your heart to rejuvenate yourself. I listen to my heart more these days and understand myself better. I can connect with children much more effectively now. Daaji’s guidance has helped me at personal and professional levels immensely.