Listening to Patients is my main job as a doctor – from treating Patients in the UK to now at Praava

I was born and raised in a small town on the east coast of Scotland, called Dundee. In our community, it was very common for children of Asian parents to grow up and become a doctor and I was determined to do something different, however, as the time came to make a decision as to what I would be when I grow up, I was unable to find another profession where I knew I would be at the forefront of helping people of all of the walks of life. After medical school, I started working for the National Health Service. It was tough, often daunting and overwhelming, and every day was a steep learning curve. But there were days and moments that were so rewarding that they would eclipse the most stressful of days. 

After I met my husband, we decided to settle in Bangladesh for a while and the thought of working in a different country intrigued me. There are many differences between working in Bangladesh and the UK in the types of diseases you see and work culture, but one thing was universal – listening to people in need can help people recover and help any doctor become a better one. 

As I continued to work, I also became a mother and my own priorities changed. I love being a doctor but I did not want to miss out on my children growing up. Every parent, especially a mother, comes to this crossroad which leads to a constant balancing act. I came across Praava Health, just after I had given birth to my second son, and to me, it seemed like a workplace that was there for their patients and their doctors. After speaking to Praava’s CEO, Sylvana Q. Sinha, I knew I had found the place where I did not have to make this choice. 

I had always intended to be in hospital medicine and I was unsure whether I would be well suited for family medicine. In family medicine, the doctor has a huge responsibility to oversee the physical and mental health of the patient and unlike in a hospital where there is a whole team around you, it is often just you and the patient in that room. I was scared that I would not always know the answers and be able to help my patients. I had often heard complaints from families that in Bangladesh, doctors don’t give patients time, don’t make eye contact, and  I remembered back to what my previous consultants would say that a doctor’s main job is to listen, listen, and then listen some more. The initial daunting sense of responsibility has now become a protectiveness. I have come to see my consulting room as a safe space for my patients where they do not feel judged and they can express themselves with the knowledge that someone is there for them. 

Just as patients can make a doctor’s job satisfying, colleagues and the surrounding team also play a crucial role. It is impossible for a doctor to work to the best of their ability if they are not supported by their colleagues and supervisors. On my first visit to Praava Health, I knew I was going to be part of something different. Everyone was friendly and forthcoming and that has continued throughout my 2 years here. I feel that I am part of a team where we are all working towards a common goal of enhancing our patients’ quality of life as well as giving each other support so that we can grow and learn together to become better physicians. 

Family medicine is still a novel concept in Bangladesh but within a short time Praava Health has already created a niche for itself within the large Bangladeshi healthcare system and I am proud to be part of Praava’s journey. However, as with all areas of medicine, we have to keep evolving and growing as this pandemic has taught us, but with Praava one constant will always be at the center, and that is the patient.

Why Praava Health Helps Me Connect With My Patients

During my childhood, I loved activities such as dance, recitation, extempore speech, debate, handicrafts, etc, and I even got some national prizes! However, it was my mom’s dream to see me as a dentist and so I studied hard to fulfill her wishes. And now that I am a dentist, I actually love my job! 

When I was studying dentistry, there was only one dental college in Bangladesh – Dhaka Dental College, and I was only one of 16 female dentists to get admitted in that batch from all over the country. I also became the first female president of the Blood and Eye Donation organization of Dhaka Dental College run by medical and dental students. 

Before I started my journey at Praava Health, I worked for Bangladesh Civil Service, Apollo Hospitals Dhaka, and in my own two dental clinics in Dhaka city. I have 25 years of work experience and when I first got to know about Praava Health, I was amazed and fully convinced of our CEO Ms. Sylvana Sinha’s vision for the company, and that led me to want to join this team. Reading her words on the website, I felt as though those were my own words for a healthcare center that I’m looking for. And eventually, I joined Praava because it is exactly the kind of workplace I have always wanted to be part of.   

After joining Praava, I have had the opportunity to be part of quite a few world-class training, on hospitality, CPR BLS, including from Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard University, USA, which gave me further confidence and knowledge in my work. 

Everything we do at Praava is enabled by technology, including Bangladesh’s first fully integrated Hospital Information System (HIS) and Patient app. This means I don’t need to give my patients any handwritten prescriptions – all of my patients’ medical history is stored in one place and accessible at any time. Our patients also do not need to bring any papers or prescriptions with them, which they have often told me is very convenient. Also through the patient app, our patients can book their own appointment directly, get their lab reports, prescription, etc.  

My dental surgery room is well equipped with international standard equipment. From the very beginning, I liked Praava’s cleanliness and especially its sterilization system. In any kind of dental procedure even in scaling, bleeding can occur, so proper sterilization is a major factor for dental instruments to avoid HIV, hepatitis, or other blood-related contamination. I’m happy that Praava has a world-class sterilization system including autoclave, hot air oven, ultraviolet cabinet, chemical sterilization, etc. After each dental procedure, we clean the room properly. I also have a trained nurse as my assistant to help me with my work. 

In over 3 years that I have been with Praava, I must share that the feeling of respect and bonding I have with my patients has been the biggest achievement for me. One of the most heartwarming things for me is how much affection I get from children, who are generally scared of dentists or dental chairs. But these sweet children often write poems for me, draw pictures for me, and even say that they want to be a Dentist like me when they grow up!  

I would also like to add that Praava’s senior management takes patient feedback very seriously so that we can improve our services for a better patient experience. Also, as an employee, we are lucky to be working in such an amicable environment. As a team, we have weekly all team meetings which include all of our colleagues at Praava, weekly medical service meetings, and also monthly tea with our CEO – all of which makes us feel more inclusive at Praava.  

Finally, I must mention my appreciation for our Founder & CEO, Ms. Sylvana Sinha who is an absolutely dynamic personality in my eyes. I would also like to express my gratitude towards my leaders in the Medical Services Department – Dr. Simeen Akhtar, Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Faisal Rahman, Medical Director, along with my wonderful colleagues starting from our patient-facing teams to our corporate office colleagues. I am incredibly proud to be a part of Praava Health and hope to continue to serve many more patients in the days and years to come. 

What Working as Praava Health’s Family Doctor Means to Me

My motivation and passion to be a doctor started in my childhood seeing my mother’s sufferings as a diabetic patient. Being a genetically inherited type 2 diabetic patient, she used to have many complications and my father had to wander around taking her to several different doctors and diagnostic centers. Witnessing these experiences left a lasting impact on me that people suffer a lot when they are sick not and only because of their illness, but also in the process of seeking medical help. To me, being a doctor is not a reputed profession only, but I see it as a sacred duty where we are serving the people, just like the way I wanted my mother to be treated. 

Upon completion of my graduation, I started general practice as a physician and also joined the GP Health Service as a consultant. While practicing there I had the experience to serve hundreds of patients across the country – from rural villagers to metro-city dwellers of different age groups. Aside from being sick, most of them have a common issue that they do not have a trusted healthcare facility or a medical professional that they can entirely rely on when seeking medical help. 

After getting the medical advice these patients would come to me for consultation, they would often share their own personal stories, the opportunities and obstacles in life they have faced as if I were their own family member! It reminded me of classic movies where families would have a family doctor whom they trust and confide in as their very own family member. I was touched by their affection for me as their doctor and wished I had the opportunity to meet and treat my patients, being connected with them as a family doctor who would stick by them in their good and bad times. I knew it was merely a dream at that time because there was no such platform to practice family medicine in Bangladesh. 

I came to know that only one noble doctor had pursued his FCPS course in family medicine. The lack of a facility to practice and the then-unknown prospect of family medicine discouraged more doctors to explore this side of medicine. Later on, a small enthusiasm led me to pursue my postgraduate diploma in family medicine under the University Of Science & Technology Chattogram (USTC). There I met the compassionate-hearted Dr. Shoaib Ahmed. While pursuing the course I was working as an Emergency Medical Officer (EMO) at a medical center at Banani but I was unaware of Praava Health and its vision. This is when Dr. Shoaib invited me to come to his office at Praava Health. I was simply mesmerized entering the Praava Health facility for the first time! Seeing the beautifully architectured facility, modern systematic setup, and approach, was like my dream had come true to have the opportunity to be a part of Praava Health and practice family medicine in a manner that could not be imagined to be available in Bangladesh as there was no dedicated facility focused on family medicine before Praava started its journey.  

Praava Health is the first in Bangladesh to introduce a fully integrated Hospital Information System (HIS). Patients do not need to worry about carrying their old medical reports anymore. Here at Praava, we have the complete database of our patients’ medical records, and doctors have access to the patient portal for instant report checking, advising medicines and diagnosis, constant monitoring, and so on. 

Our state-of-the-art lab facility is set up and maintained according to international standards. We are one of the first private outpatient facilities in Bangladesh to get authorization for COVID-19 testing. Throughout the pandemic, the Praava team has been working relentlessly for our community by collecting COVID-19 samples through home collection and our collection booths for testing. We are also among the leading pioneers in Bangladesh to promote and implement telemedicine during this time so patients can consult with their doctors remotely without having to risk their exposure to the virus during this time.  

We, the doctors and the entire Praava team are working every day from morning until late night, often beyond our scheduled work hours, to ensure that our patients are getting all the support they need from us. And we can proudly say that we are serving them very well and patients are very satisfied, alhamdulillah, in this pandemic situation too. 

Praava’s working environment, the office culture is very friendly, safe, and comfortable, encouraging, full of positivity and goodness. Regardless of our gender or designation, there is no discrimination be it from our Praava Guides, Front Desk Executives, janitors, nurses, phlebotomists, technicians, doctors, or the management team – we all together share a great bonding and team spirit to work as a family towards a common mission. We all work with empathy, dedication, and compassion, that is why our beloved patients find Praava as a safe, trusted, and reliable place to come for their healthcare needs. 

Praava has completed more than 3 years, and I joined Praava on 19 March 2018. I am and always will be indebted to my beloved colleague Dr. Musarrof Hossain, and Praava’s Senior Medical Director Dr. Simeen M Akhtar, and Medical Director Dr. Faisal Rahman who selected me to be a part of the team. I must express my heartfelt gratitude and admiration for the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Praava Health, Ms. Sylvana Quader Sinha, a magnificent visionary and a person with a heart full of love and who works for the betterment of the people of our country. Being born and brought up in the USA she did not forget her origin. Despite having a successful and established career and life in the US, she decided to move to Bangladesh to dedicate her time, energy, thoughts, and resources to give the people of Bangladesh a world class health care system where patients come first as a priority. Under her dynamic leadership, we are working to achieve our united goal – to bring a revolutionary change in the healthcare sector of  Bangladesh and to provide people with the best trustworthy and quality services at an affordable price point.  

I can vividly recollect my first working day at Praava and also my first patient. We are still in touch now. My journey with Praava has been incredible. Praava Health has given me the platform to communicate with all my patients in an amiable family environment that I dreamt of. I can’t express the amount of love and respect I receive from my patients, they have accepted me as their very own family doctor by true means. For many of them, I am not only a doctor but a daughter, a mother, a sister, a friend – a member of their family. 

Our life is short, but the completeness of this short life lies in our work, dedication, compassion that improves and enlightens the lives of others. As a doctor, I am honored and proud to be a member of Praava Health which is working for the people.  

My Passion for Family Medicine and Why I Joined Praava Health

My passion was always to be a doctor – a doctor who addresses patients’ worries, understands their needs, shares their anxiety, and listens to them. A doctor should not see their patients only for the health issues they describe but as a whole person. S/he should not just have medical knowledge, experience, and skills, but also exhibit empathy, compassion, and be non-discriminatory towards all patients. Only an institution whose values are aligned with that of the doctor is where s/he can provide the best healthcare for patients. Praava Health is that institution for me.

“The ‘good physician’ treats the disease; the ‘great physician’ treats the patient who has the disease” – William Osler. This quote really resonates with me and I have always tried to keep it in mind when seeing patients throughout my career.

I was the first family doctor at Praava and have been a part of this incredible journey from the very beginning. The pivotal part for me is when I can create a relationship with my patients. I would like to share a story of a family I have been treating. The mother had diabetes, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease, and had been under my treatment for a long time. She would say that half of her health always got better just after a consultation. Every time I called her to follow-up on her condition, she would instead pray for my health and wellbeing. She has sadly passed away, and her son had called to thank me for taking care of his mother and making her feel better through her difficulties. Even though I am very upset to know she is no longer with us, I am grateful that I have been able to help her through her journey. ‘Alhamdu Lillah’.

Our Founder, Chairman, & CEO Ms. Sinha dreamed of a healthcare facility that is centered around the patient, and one of the key players is the family doctor. Family doctors can manage 80% of all health-related issues that patients may face in the community. They also provide continuing and comprehensive healthcare for individuals and families across all ages, genders, and diseases.

Similarly at Praava, we provide care on an ongoing basis and we encourage our patients to be more in control of their health. We take time to listen to our patients, answer their questions, and ensure that they understand what is happening with their health.

The best thing about Praava is that we work as a team. All of us work together towards our common goal of providing the best healthcare experience to our patients and I am proud to be a member of this team.

From the beginning of this pandemic, we have been providing teleconsultations to our patients to encourage them to stay indoors and make sure they still get the care they need from the safety of their homes. After Praava got government approval for COVID-19 testing, we started with home sample collection for all our patients to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus.

Moving forward, we dream that Praava will grow to be the leading healthcare provider in Bangladesh and continue to serve our patients with the empathy and dignity that they deserve.

My Journey with Praava Health

Upon completion of my three years tenure with Praava Health, I am grateful to my patients and colleagues for their good wishes. I’m proud to be working with talented and committed co-workers in the Praava team who are dedicated to restoring trust in the healthcare sector of Bangladesh. 

I can still fondly recall the day Prof. Dr. Raghib Manzoor introduced me as a senior family physician, acting in the Bangladesh army, with the senior management of Praava Health at its first office at Gulshan. I was very excited after getting to know the aim of the organization and its future planning in the healthcare delivery of our country. During our conversation, I came to know that Praava’s target population will be the urban middle class, as they are the biggest sufferers in the existing healthcare system in our country, where the low-income population can get healthcare support from the government or NGO health centers and the affluent are flying abroad to get medical help. Even Praava’s name, a combination of two words “Praan” and “Aava” meaning “beam of life” is beautiful and meaningful! And so from the very first day, I decided to work with Praava. 

In early 2017, I attended many workshops and training sessions at Praava on updated healthcare delivery systems, patient dealing and counseling, and learning of modern technology which will be required in overall patient’s management. One day I met Praava’s Founder, Chairman, & CEO, Ms. Sylvana Q Sinha, an American by birth and Bangladeshi by blood, who took the challenge to establish this world-class healthcare delivery center to make a change in our health system. She has degrees from Harvard University, Columbia University, and Wellesley College and spent most of her career working in international law and development, including with the World Bank and an advisor to the then Senator Barack Obama. She moved to Dhaka for fulfilling this mission with a dream that Praava Health will be a network of family health centers based on family doctors and diagnostics and will act as a trusted partner with patients in their health journey and build a brand that will be based on quality and excellence.

Praava Health started its journey on August 24, 2017. I can still recollect our launch day, when I demonstrated a family doctor’s consultation, the way we do it at Praava, to the chief guest of the occasion, honorable State Minister of ICT Mr. Zunaid Ahmed Palak. He was very pleased to see the patient-centric set up of our consultation room and the show of empathy exhibited during a consultation. All clinicians working at Praava are maintaining that patient-centric consultation style, giving patients sufficient time, listening attentively, and allowing the patients to take part in the decision making of diagnosis and treatment. 

I joined Praava Health formally on September 9, 2017, as a consultant in family medicine and became a proud member of the team. There are other specialties such as pediatricians, gynecologists, ophthalmologists, dental surgeons, psychologists, nutritionists, and physiotherapists. We all became very committed to Praava’s motto and formed a reliable, trusted, and strong first contact healthcare delivery place to keep patients out of hospitals. As we know, 80-90% of all health related issues can be solved by family doctors.

With the tagline “we care for you like family”, Praava Health ensures utmost care for patients at every step of their healthcare journey. After stepping into our facility, patients can feel that every process is designed to get the solutions they need quickly. Praava wants to enable patients to have access to healthcare anytime anywhere and so introduced the first fully-integrated Hospital Information System (HIS) including the first patient app to access their medical records, book appointments, and communicate with family doctors and other health professionals.  

Praava’s state of the art lab was set up according to international standards including Bangladesh’s first molecular cancer diagnostics lab and is currently going through the process of accreditation from the College of American Pathologists (CAP), the leading international organization advancing excellence in laboratory medicine. Along with this, Praava has imaging services as well with the latest equipment, and an in-house pharmacy. At the very beginning of the COVID pandemic in our country, Praava’s lab was one of the first to get government permission to perform the COVID-19 test. Praava is also offering many affordable health plans, home care services and reliable home sample collections. 

In our country, many public and private organizations started working to meet this deficiency in our healthcare sector. But until now, no organization has started full-fledged services to provide proper family health services by combining family doctors and other allied health professionals. Praava Health is a pioneer in this regard with the aim to establish a world-class healthcare system that puts patients first. The whole concept is the brainchild of our Founder, Ms. Sinha, who gave up her life in the USA and moved to Bangladesh to provide better healthcare delivery in our country, with a belief that Bangladeshis deserve quality and affordable healthcare grounded in respect and empathy. 

In the present COVID-19 pandemic situation, the role of family doctors is manifold. They can easily maintain the triage at the front line by disease screening, providing telemedicine consultations, educating the community people, assisting the public health authorities, and can ultimately prevent unnecessary burden on hospitals in our resource constraint country. During this health crisis, Praava is providing access to quality healthcare through video consultation with family doctors and the other health professionals, along with testing for COVID-19, home sample collection, and pharmacy delivery all over Dhaka. 

Family medicine was my chosen specialty from the time I first seriously considered medicine as a career before I even knew that it was a specialty. With that interest, I became the first fellow (FCPS) and member (MCPS) in Family Medicine of Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons. I believe this area of medicine is where a doctor can benefit the community a lot more.

As per WONCA – World Organization of Family Doctors, every family should have one Family Doctor as a health advocate and a reliable friend of the family members. Worldwide Family Doctors are trained to meet patients as the first point of contact, across all ages, genders, occupations, and cultures within the context of family and community. 

I have worked in several public and private health institutions in our country and abroad throughout my civil and military career as an accomplished family physician with a dedicated focus in family medicine and on providing quality healthcare. As a family doctor, I really enjoy talking to my patients and their families and making a difference in their lives because my greatest reward is when patients tell me they like seeing me as I listen to them and I care.