Advocating Holistic Health and Sustainability: Soumya Ganapathy
When I was young, I felt like I was carrying two worlds within myself—my Indian heritage and the Western culture that I was growing up in. There were many times that I felt like an outsider. I was picked on a lot but that made me empathetic towards others facing discrimination. At times it was tough, but those experiences made me who I am.
I believe that if you want to do something, you should let nothing stand in your way. I was an average student, but I always had an interest in learning and was passionate about medicine. Since I was not the best student, some may have thought it was absurd that I wanted to be a doctor. If you think a goal is worthwhile, it is important to take steps towards that.
Along the way, I found different ways to learn when I was not able to understand things at school. I did a lot of studying on my own as well. I was super excited when I got into medical school. In medical school, I choose to specialize in emergency medicine because as an emergency physician you get to take care of people when they need it most. The most fulfilling part of the job is being able to provide care to those who need help the most.
I’m also very interested in holistic medicine. I did not wish to be one of those doctors who just handed out prescriptions and considered their work done. Healthcare should not be limited to the four walls of hospitals. I want to take care of my patients’ overall well-being. I am thankful that in my profession, there are many opportunities to help people. Sometimes, being a doctor can be a rollercoaster ride; I have witnessed gruesome tragedies as well as little moments of joy, like assisting in the birth of a baby, that sustains me. My profession nourishes my soul and helps me give back to society. After 15 years as an emergency physician, working for 10–12 hours daily, I have now transferred to administrative work in the hospital and occasional shifts in the emergency department.
I always advocate for self-care and wellness. No matter your profession, taking care of yourself is very important. Unless you are happy and healthy, you cannot be in a headspace to provide value to others. Exercise, meditation, and mindfulness are very effective not only for one’s mental health but also for treating various chronic conditions.
I am currently involved in running two other projects. One is a health literacy project called Nextclinica. The primary aim of NextClinica is to help people learn about their help. We offer classes, provide coaching and plan to venture into wearables.
The other is Encore Revel, which is something I recently started to spread awareness about sustainability and zero waste. It is my way of doing my bit for Earth and encouraging others to do the same.
Encore Revel was initially created to start conversations about better ways to deal with plastic use and to promote sustainability. We are doing a lot of things to help curb climate change, but there is more we can do when it comes to zero waste and sustainability. Where I live, only 30% of plastic gets recycled and one of my main concerns is the amount of plastic used in packaging. It was how I came up with this initiative and now I have an online store where we try to minimize single-use plastic by packaging household products in glass containers. We also encourage our customers to bring their containers so we can refill them.
My aim is to minimize the use of plastic as much as possible. Earth is more than a place for us to extract resources from, it is our home. Our environment has a profound impact on our health, so it only makes sense to care for Earth as we do ourselves.
One of my biggest inspirations is my mother. She is the one who inspired me to choose the medical sciences. She was one of the few women physicians at Mysore Medical College. She also joined the Indian Army and was an Army Officer in the 1960s and 70s. She retired after marriage. She didn’t follow the stereotypical way and that is what I want to do too. I want to leave behind a legacy that inspires youngsters to be compassionate, empathetic, and more environmentally conscious.
I am also inspired by Madam C.J. Walker, an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. She is recorded as the first female, self-made millionaire in America. Her dedication and determination inspire me to never give up.
I also tell everybody that there’s no harm in giving something new a try. It can take you places you never thought you could go to. Go carve your own path. But most importantly, never neglect your wellbeing.