Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru
Mangaluru, Jun 9: As I walked into this doctor couple's residence sitting cozy amidst a dense foliage that makes their garden, gentle notes of violin wafted through the air. Akshatha M Kamath Ammembal, the girl who bagged the 2nd rank in NEET in the state, and all-India rank of 107, was practicing the violin, one of her many interests.
Anyone who chose science at the PU level would know how strenuous the grind can be. Now with students having to compete with their counterparts across the nation for a medical seat, the competition can't get any tougher. And, as in NEET this time, when you are up against 12,69,922 students from all over India, it is just not easy to get into a top institution of your choice. Akshatha, though, has done it.
Daughter of gynaec surgeons Dr Manjunath Kamath Ammembal and Dr Shanthi Kamath, Akshatha has already been selected by the prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, one of the top 100 universities in the world. Still, being someone who has dreamt all her life to become a doctor like her parents, Akshatha is keeping her options open.
Akshatha, a student of Expert PU College, however feels she could have done better in the exams, and that she did not perform to her full potential. "Though I did not expect this rank, I think I could have done much better in the exams. May be my preparation wasn't good enough. I feel I have the potential to be among the top 10 but I didn't achieve that. I am happy that people are congratulating me, it is very nice of them, but I don't feel that I deserve the accolades," she says in an exclusive interview to daijiworld.
"I used to study 10-12 hours a day. It was mostly self-study, with no major coaching except for Expert. My dad helped me a lot and I took a lot of mock tests expecially the online tests from Allen and Akash tutorials, because tests can tell you where you stand in a group of intelligent students. I had a very good biology teacher who used to take classes for me once or twice a week. He was very helpful. I also took a lot of help from reference books like MTG," she says.
In the process of preparing for the all-important exams, Akshatha kept most of her other interests aside. "I couldn't go for swimming. I couldn't do a lot of things which teenagers usually do, but I did have fun during breaks from studying, rarely, may be for half an hour."
For the aspiring doctor in Akshatha, her parents are her inspiration. "Both my parents are my inspiration. I have been to a few of their surgeries and I admire the detail and accuracy. And the smile on the patient's face after a successful surgery makes it all worth it."
The inspiration from parents does not stop at just her choice of career. For Akshatha, her parents were the pillar of support all through the period of prepartion for the exams. "My dad was the one who kept me going even when I had lost all hope, and my mom was the one who would calm us all down. She is the opposite of dad, which kind of worked very nicely. My grandparents helped a lot and so did my brother."
Like her parents, Akshatha wants to pursue gynaecology, with focus on women cancer patients. "If I am going for medicine I would like to specialise in gynaecological oncology surgery. My dad is already an expert in the field of gynaecology and I would like to build on that. I also feel that women in this country need a lot more attention than they have been given."
While becoming a doctor has always been her dream, being accepted by the IISc has opened a new window of opportunity for Akshatha. "But now I am not really sure about becoming a doctor, as with admission to IISc, even basic sciences is open to me. Since IISc is a top institute, I'll have access through it to universities like Oxford and Cambridge. So even that is a very good idea now, especially since medicine is becoming pretty hard nowadays in this country," she says.
Akshatha had her early education in England, where her parents were working as doctors before settling back in Mangaluru. It was in standard 6th that she joined Canara CBSE School, and adjusting to a whole new enviroment wasn't easy. "We had only the basics of Kannada in school (Canara), that too for just one year, so the language part was fine. But adjusting to the surroundings was difficult, first, because competition is much more here than in England. There are more number of people here and they are highly motivated, while in England it was easy - may be when you go higher up, there might be more competition, but it wasn't so when I was younger. Also, people's attitudes are a bit different here, they are very enterprising whereas in England they are a bit laidback. Everythiing was served to you in a platter in England, but in India you actually need to do things and be independent. I think India is a much better country to grow up in, because if you can live in India you can live anywhere."
There is more to Akshatha than just excellence in studies. A multi-talented girl, she is a district-level swimmer who has won 30-40 medals including two at the state-level, an amatuer violinist, plays basketball and is a voracious reader with an interest in music and art as well. She hopes to pursue swimming and perhaps even represent her future university in the sport.
Asked if she feels there was anything lacking in Indian healthcare system that she wished would change, she gives a thought-provoking reply: "The doctor should have empathy with the patient. He/she should be able to understand the problems of the patient. Most doctors seem to lack human aspect, that is what I have seen. I feel explanation of the problem, treatment methods etc on the part of the doctor is lacking. They just tell you to do something without telling you why, which can be very scary for the patient especially if it involves surgery. I think the clinical aspect is missing."
Her advice to students aspiring to do well in NEET: "Have a highly motivated group of friends, who have the same mindset as you, and also have a mentor who will guide you and make sure you are on the right path. One needs to put in hard work, but it should be sensible. You cannot just study for 14-16 hours a day, it should be sensible. That is what most people miss out, they don't do it in a sensible way."
Her father, Dr Kamath, feels that students of Mangaluru have the potential to perform better if given the right support and motivation especially by educational institutions. Asked how he felt about Akshatha's achievement, he says, "It is a mixed feeling. We are happy that Akshatha has done well, but our students particularly in Mangaluru don't seem to have reached their full potential. I feel the educational institutions and universities should wake up and prepare students for national-level competitive exams. We are showing a great deal of complacency. This is a wake up call that there are students of potential in our city, and they should be encouraged to lead from the front to attain higher levels of success in national-level competitive exams."
Incidentally, Dr Kamath has contributed two thought-provoking articles to daijiworld. Read them here, and here.