In Conversation with a Mentor | Interview with Sudha Chadalawada

In Conversation with a Mentor (ICM) Episode 4 | S2

Co-founder of Sree Padmavathi Venkateswara Foundation or SreePVF, Sudha Chadalawada is a rare combination of professional excellence and a generous, kind heart. To serve the community, she, together with her husband C Nageswara Rao, founded Sree PVF in 2014. Both are successful medical professionals and alumni of prestigious institutes like Harvard Medical College and Tufts University, respectively.

SreePVF has been supporting excellence in medical education and cares and offering awards, donations, and grants to individuals, institutions, societies, and foundations whose aims and activities are in tune with the Foundation.

Sree PVF offers Sree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Research Grant in Biomedical Sciences, launched in 2019, and Sree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa Research Grant for Agriculture, which was constituted in 2021.

Visit their website at https://www.sreepadmavathivenk…

Podcast Duration: 15 min 17 sec

Note to listeners: This recording was done over a zoom meeting call due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has resulted in a slightly diminished audio quality with some mild disturbances in the recording, compared to a studio-quality recording.

[00:00:00] — Intro 

You’re listening to IndiaBiospeaks, voices from the life science explorers in India.

[00:00:11] — Suchibrata Borah 

Hello, and welcome back to In Conversation with a Mentor’, on the stories of some path breaking mentors across the life science research community. In the series, we talk to researchers, science managers, administrators, and entrepreneurs based in life science. Enjoy listening and do send us your feedback at indiabiospeaks@​indibioscience.​org. Let’s delve into their inspiring and insightful stories.

Our today’s guest believes that her philosophy is to give and give her wealth, be it material or be it spiritual. She belongs to a long line of family who has donated a major person of their wealth for the benefit of common people, public engagement, health, and science. It gives me immense pleasure to welcome Dr. Sudha Chadalawada from the Sree Padmavathi Venkateswara foundation or SreePVF. Hello, Dr. Sudha, welcome to In Conversation with a Mentor’.

[00:01:13] — Sudha Chadalawada

Good afternoon, Suchibrata. I’m happy to be here to connect with IndiaBioscience. This is my first podcast. As a matter of fact, on a regular basis also, I don’t listen to podcasts. So this is my first podcast, participating in it and listening to it.

[00:01:32] — Suchibrata Borah 

Oh, wow. That’s great. And we are very happy to be partnering with you for your very first podcast. Welcome to ICM.

So, Dr. Sudha, first of all, let us start by talking about your family. You come from a long line of family who has been contributing in many ways to the advancement of society. Your family has donated 30-plus acres for establishing medical schools and colleges. So you do follow your philosophy of sharing your wealth, be it material or spiritual, and you are contributing your wealth and knowledge in different ways. So what is your motivation behind it?

[00:02:14] — Sudha Chadalawada 

I come from a family who believed in philanthropy. I’m the fourth generation, but fortunately, over the years, I think we have increased the percentage of our wealth, which we have decided to share. And fortunately with God’s grace, or I will put it the other way around as we are ordained by God, ordained by the Lord to give, so we decided to share 90% of our wealth. Prior to that our family has contributed, as you said, substantial land for the medical college where the other sponsors have taken up and constructed the medical college and continued on. There’s immense pleasure in sharing wealth. That’s what I can say, so much pleasure when I write a check to give it away to someone, then the same thing I buy for myself. So that way the Lord has blessed us. And my husband is equally, if not more than me, thinking in these lines.

[00:03:20] — Suchibrata Borah 

So, Dr. Sudha you and your husband, Dr. C Nageswara Rao, are the founders of the Sree Padmavathi Venkateswara foundation. What is the Sree Padmavathi Venkateswara foundation or SreePVF and what is the goal of this foundation?

[00:03:36] — Sudha Chadalawada

When we started this foundation, ordained by the Lord, we decided to give away 90% of the wealth during our lifetime and the balance of the 10%, after us, will be going off to the foundation. And the purpose of this foundation is charitable activities in different ways. One of the important things that we wanted to do is to give something for the research, which we have not done in the past. A significant amount of this goes to the research in the biomedical field. So we started about three years ago selecting candidates for this one. So we call for an application, which is announced in prestigious journals of India. And from there, we have a jury who will be selecting the candidates and after shortlisting, they’ll be interviewed and the candidate will be selected. And this is a three crore grant, given in three tranches. So every year they get one crore for three crores. So this year our third candidate has been selected. The first one is in biomedical from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Dr. Vidita Vaidya, and Dr. Vandana Sharma from IIT Hyderabad. This is biotechnology, and the third one is from IIT Hyderabad, CCMB, and L V Prasad, as a joint venture, which is clinically oriented, where biotechnologies are used to help the prevention of blindness or curing blindness. We also started in this foundation, we always felt that we have done in the past for healthcare and education with the medical college, both have come prior to that, we had only colleges where only education was there, but we have felt that we have not done anything for the pharma. So we are looking into that aspect also.

[00:05:39] — Suchibrata Borah 

You have seen the Indian medical system in and out, you have worked in the USA and in India now for almost 50 years. So you are actively doing social work for many decades. You have built hospitals. How do you think India can improve the medical facilities here? And also at the same time, make these facilities more accessible and affordable for low-income households?

[00:06:04] — Sudha Chadalawada 

India has to go a long way. Today, we are able to match the healthcare, very sophisticated care almost to the west, but this is unfortunately confined to big cities and to affordable patients. When it comes to the patients who are less fortunate, but still, the healthcare the medical colleges and hospitals are offering is as much as the corporate hospitals across the nation with far less expense for the patient. But in the rural sector, there’s great need, and today, unfortunately, because of the other facilities that are lacking in the rural area, doctors are not going to the rural areas to serve in spite of so many incentives from the government sector. So probably one has to think about the paramedical, in the sense, physician assistants, nursing midwives, where they should be selected from the rural sector so that they can go back to the rural area because they’re used to that, they’re not full-fledged doctors, they’re not full-fledged to provide everything, but at least the bottom of the pyramid can be taken care of with these things. And then they have a referral system where they can move from that area to the health facilities that are available either in the government sector or in the private sector. There’s a great need for that, but I’m not sure if this has to be done by the government only. To think of opening a different parallel one, because doctors are relatively unwilling, even coming to the two-tier cities also, they’re not willing, so let alone going to the rural areas. I’m talking about specialists, especially. Physician assistants are being used in a well-developed nation like America. Nursing assistants are being used. Nursing anesthesia is being used. So if the west is using, advanced nations are using that, I think it’s time for India to be thinking of on those lines, which would provide healthcare to a certain sector who are not able to get that healthcare.

[00:08:21] — Suchibrata Borah 

I believe that I could relate to what you were saying, because I come from a place where the medical system is very poor, just a primary health center, and like, leave alone the specialist, even MBBS medical doctors are not found there. They don’t want to go there because it’s not a city, not even a town, it’s a village. There are no proper quarters. There are no shopping areas and all that. So life is pretty much dull there. So I believe there are many reasons why this is happening and this is one of them.

You have an excellent educational background and we checked your background and we found that you were the best student in your class with five gold medals and that’s wow. You studied at Harvard in the 60s. Most of the people who studied in such prestigious institutions at that time stayed back abroad. With such an exceptional education you could have done that too, but you not only came back, but you came back with your purpose to make a change. What thoughts were you having while deciding that?

[00:09:32] — Sudha Chadalawada 

Fortunately, my husband, myself, have agreed on that. And the medical school fees that we paid was 250 rupees per year. And then we went abroad. And as you know, one of the places where the doctors make big money is in the US but we had felt, we had an obligation to come back because definitely 250 rupees is subsidized and who subsidized it? The government subsidized it. What is the government? Government is the taxpayers. So we felt we owed it to our country to return and particularly to return to our own place, Vijayawada. We had the option of settling down in Delhi, Bombay, Chennai. Hyderabad was not big at that time. Though we had the option, we opted to come back to Vijayawada. And of course, we had some disadvantages of coming to Vijayawada. The platform was not good for somebody who was so well trained in Boston, but we felt that Boston doesn’t miss us, but we need to do something in our own place. So we had our struggles, but because of the determination to do something for our own community and fortunately with God’s grace, we could do a lot, not only in Vijayawada but in Andhra Pradesh, where we could do a lot of things at the very affordable cost to the majority. And I was fortunate to see a lot of complicated cases, which I have not seen at ivory towers. So that gave me satisfaction.

[00:11:16] — Suchibrata Borah 

In this 50 years of working career, you have grown as a person too. How would you like to describe your growth as an individual? And also what makes you smile when you look back at your career today? I’m sure you have achieved a lot, but that particular one thing that makes you feel very good.

[00:11:36] — Sudha Chadalawada 

When I was a young residency, coming out of it, when I was at Harvard, felt so great about being there. I was the only non-white in the setup working. Everybody else was non-white man. I was a non-white female. So I thought it was all my greatness. No, there are innumerable causes for what I am, for which my personal endeavor is but one, I’m a believer in that I, in my younger days, I thought it’s my own endeavor. No, there are so many opportunities that have helped me to be what I am and the most important thing is we never anticipated that we’ll be able to give away kind of wealth and have the heart to give away this kind of wealth. It’s entirely the divine plan.

[00:12:27] — Suchibrata Borah 

It’s so great to hear from you. Many people have lots of money, but they don’t have the heart to give away that wealth the way you are doing. 

Thank you Dr. Sudha for joining us today at In Conversation with a Mentor’. You are an inspiring lady with so much positivity and energy. Hearing you makes me feel hopeful for tomorrow that amidst all the problems hate and worse, still there is hope and empathy being human. One thing we should never forget is to help each other in need. Thank you so much for making the changes we expect to see, and I’m sure this podcast will motivate many young Sudha’s out there . And this world is definitely going to be better each day because of you. Thank you.

[00:13:18] — Sudha Chadalawada 

Thank you very much, Mrs. Suchibrata for participating in this podcast of IndiaBiosciences. And hopefully, we will have a lot more, I’m very optimistic as India has bright future in spite of all the odds. Thank you again, for giving me the opportunity.

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[00:14:07] — Outro

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