when Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi says that audiences line up to meet him after his standup shows, he’s not exaggerating. A full time doctor by day and standup comedian by night, the ENT surgeon says he is now used to people asking him to check their CT scans instead of asking for selfies.
“It brings me closer to my patients,” he says without an iota of doubt.
Behind Dr Jagdish’s hilarious punchlines and modest attitude lies a pioneering medical innovator, whose contributions have been a game changer in the medical field, especially in rural areas.
He says he was bitten by the innovation bug in 2008, while was undergoing his training to become a doctor. His first invention was a cheap alternative to expensive imaging equipment to diagnose throat cancer.
“It hurt me to see that many farmers were getting early stage cancers from inhaling stubble fire. We were using rudimentary tools like mirrors to check people’s throat in villages,” Dr Jagdish, who works at Bengaluru’s Fortis Hospital, tells The Better India. “But the reflection of the back of mouth never gave a clear picture.”
In city areas, there are flat-screen TVs and advanced technology. Due to a lack of high-tech devices in rural areas, he attached a small camera to the endoscope and used it.
After seeing the results of his ‘jugaad’, he decided to build a prototype and eventually launch it in the market to help more doctors practising in rural areas.
However, reality hit when there were no takers, or encouragement from anyone except his senior professors in the ENT department. He struggled to find investors and manufacturers.
In the face of resistance, there are usually two paths one can take — succumbing to the pressure, or becoming more determined to bring a change. Dr Jagdish chose the second one.
“I faced backlash from the medical community, who believed I should stick to my job instead of capitalising on the prototype. But I did not give up and gave the licence to Icarus, who then sold it to Medtronic. As part of Shruti ear care programme, Medtronic uses the third-generation Medtronic Shruti ENTraview Otoscope (attached to an Android phone). It has helped around seven lakh people,” he adds.
How innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand
Dr Jagdish’s first innovation gave him more lessons than accolades. One of the first things he wanted to do was bring a mindset change among the medical fraternity with respect to innovations.
The first step was to gain knowledge and skills to translate innovations into products that doctors could use. With help from his senior professor, he enrolled himself in a Stanford bio-design programme in 2012.
“My boss Dr Ravi Nair encouraged me to take the one-year fellowship. I was among four Indians selected. I learnt how to approach a design and bring a solution while keeping factors like affordability and accessibility in mind. The fellowship made my second innovation a smooth ride,” he says.
He developed a Noxeno, a device that removes foreign bodies from the noses of children in rural areas, without needing any invasive surgery. It is presently being used across 1,000 hospitals, and was even featured in News Asia’s documentary ‘Field Guide to Innovations’ in 2017.
Dr Jagdish explains about Noxeno here:
His latest invention is a tele examination system that doctors can use while sitting anywhere in the world. The camera device can look inside the ears and nose of patients at home, and based on the picture or video, a surgeon can provide video consultation. It has been successfully piloted on a thousand children, he says.
Watch how the device works:
While Dr Jagdish was fortunate enough to undergo his training at Stanford, he wanted to make innovation in medicine a possibility for doctors across India. So in 2018, he founded HiiiH, a digital platform where doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs can connect and work on innovations.
“The platform has helped 40 Indian startups in terms of guidance, funding, product development and more. We also conduct training programmes and develop our own devices,” he says.
In the last ten years, Dr Jagdish has developed 18 devices such as the bowel cleaning device, Esophageal varices management device, medicine management box, adaptive noise cancellation for Tinnitus, and more.
When asked if anything has changed in the last decade in terms of medical innovations, he says, “It is a remarkably positive change. India has rolled out so many programmes like the Atal Incubation Centre, annual hackathons, ICMR CLiMB programme and more to help innovators. With angel investors and shows like Shark Tank, entrepreneurs are thriving in every field.”
As for his standup, he has done close to 400 shows across India as well as abroad. This has invited a few raised eyebrows from doctors, he says, who feel that no one will take him seriously if he cracks jokes. But clearly, the post-show queues paint a different picture.
You can find the full list of Dr Jagdish’s innovations here.
Edited by Divya Sethu