Women in Big Data is spotlighting amazing women during Women’s History Month.
Dr. Ruchi Saxena is dedicated to bringing technologies to the people who need them the most. Over the last 15 years of her career, she has been a consultant and trainer for several key projects in healthcare quality, safety, disaster risk reduction, healthcare technologies and unmanned aerial robotics in healthcare.
We are only limited by our beliefs and expectations. For me, from the first day I wore the doctor’s coat, I had just one expectation from myself – to help as many people as I can to be healthy and happy during my lifetime. From being a doctor to working with drones, data and AI, I realise that no dream is too frivolous, no goal too distant, no knowledge too sacred. Anyone can learn and do whatever it takes to answer the inner calling. An untiring zeal for learning new things makes me an ardent life-long learner. I try to bring together everything that I learn to build simple solutions to complex problems. I integrate technologies that are easy to learn, easy to deploy and easy to own. I am a loner and prefer to work in solitude, but my one-to-one relationship with each of my partners makes my affiliations grow stronger and deeper.
I worked at Spandan Holistic Child Care Centre for my MD thesis on Autism and was impressed not just by the quality of holistic treatment that the children received, but also the meticulousness with which the centre maintained enormous amounts of data—treatment records of thousands of patients—and used the knowledge acquired from that data to research and develop improved treatment protocols. In my first job at Dr Batra’s (which is the largest chain of Homoeopathy clinics,) I worked with the IT Team on developing a new Clinical Management System—a combination of ERP, CRM and EMR that would migrate all the old treatment records of hundreds of thousands of patients over the last 25 years and build more effective systems for management and analysis of new patient records. We used this system to monitor treatment and service quality and to perform medical audits on cases. We used 360-degree understanding from the medical records, patient feedback and expectations to build valuable and efficient processes and systems to enhance Patient Experience.
I moved on to become an independent consultant, trainer and auditor and started working with several healthcare organisations. Somewhere along my learning journey, I learned lean six sigma and human-centered design. I was training hundreds of medical and support teams in processes and systems and helping patients across the country receive superior healthcare. I realised it is surely fun to be a doctor and prescribe, but it is even more fulfilling when your work can create an impact on a greater scale. I was on a new found high!
I helped in establishing the International Society for Quality and Safety in Healthcare. We worked with partners in over 14 countries to deliver educational and certification programs in medical, pharmaceutical and biomedical quality. I was also on board a remote health monitoring start-up, Cloud-n-Care, where we made diagnostic and screening kits for patients in remote areas to connect them to their doctors and receive advice.
In one of my Disaster Risk Reduction projects with the Danish Red Cross, I travelled to mid-west and far-west Nepal to design emergency referral protocols. I came across story after story of people losing out on healthcare just because they lived in a place lacked sufficient roads. This was unacceptable. I got more curious about whether we can use aerial routes instead of depending on roads, especially in places like Nepal where, no matter how many roads we build, the risk of landslides and floods always exists.
I started deep diving into drones. I founded my company, Caerobotics to build an ecosystem for integrating emerging technologies to improve healthcare quality and accessibility and for disaster risk reduction. I was drawn towards Humanitarian UAV Network and WeRobotics, which operatered Flying Labs in various countries. Flying Labs worked with local leaders to build grassroots capacity for deploying drones for social good. This was totally in sync with my vision, and I offered to establish India Flying Labs. Within a year, India Flying Labs developed into an open, collaborative network of more than 25 organisations and more than 100 individual experts who are passionate about using drones for social good. We are working together on building local teams in vulnerable areas that can respond to disasters using emerging technologies such as drones and AI. We call it UAV Rapid Response Task Force. We are also introducing Project Wings, which will motivate and support students in learning robotics and drones and aspiring for careers in STEM—especially girls from rural and vulnerable populations.
This field desperately needs more women to lead from the front, so that the systems and policies that are designed don’t only reflect our voices and experiences, but also our unique individualities. We women are naturally empathetic, and the world needs our sensitivity and sincerity. We may still have a lot of social challenges to overcome, but it is still worth it.
I do not know what lies next. I do not keep a diary nor refer to a calendar. Most of my meetings, just like my decisions, are spontaneous. I follow my gut instinct to make choices, and I have failed miserably whenever I have ignored my inner voice and gone ahead with taking logical brainy steps. No matter how many robots or super computers we make, our inner intelligence, which makes us sensitive, empathetic and wise, will always be superior. The education of today must make us smarter, for sure, but should be driven by empathy and human connections, so that whatever we build in the future will make the world more beautiful and livable for all of us—humans, plants, animals, insects—everyone. It is easy to complain about what’s not alright with the world. But complaints are useless. Our distress must translate into valuable actions that build lasting bridges.