The story so far
I grew up in Mumbai, India and was the first generation in my family to go to college. I went to medical school at age 17, and worked my way up to a medical residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard following an internship in Internal Medicine at Columbia, and a Masters in Exercise & Movement Science at the University of Oregon.
My most important observation throughout medical school and residency was the fact that we spent most of our time treating patients after-the-fact, when so much could be done at the preventive end of the spectrum. This realization seemed completely counter-intuitive to me, and went on to shape the rest of my career.
Though I grew up with yoga and meditation being practised at home and in my community in India, it took a turning point - being confronted with my two-year old niece's life-threatening illness while being disheartened with standard medical practice - for me to turn back to my roots.
I started a mindfulness practice to help me with my own personal wellbeing, and reflect on how to make the most impact I could on health, building on my foundation of medicine. Through my practice I embarked on a decade-long journey that took me away from clinical practice, towards the discovery of what being "well" truly meant.
It was a tremendous period of growth and impact on the preventive side of medicine: becoming entrenched in learning about the science of nutrition and mindfulness, directing two wellness spas, expanding a personalized medicine executive health practice, training with Oprah Winfrey's life coach Martha Beck to understand behaviour change and how best to support someone through their efforts in making optimal lifestyle choices.
I currently coach individuals on their personal well-being strategies and consult with organizations on the design and implementation of lifestyle management programs (including nutrition, mindfulness, exercise and stress management).
Perspective: The future of wellbeing in the 21st century
Globally, the distribution and burden of disease has shifted from communicable to the non-communicable or chronic end of the spectrum. Regardless of socioeconomic status, the environments and lifestyles of modern day living have led to an exponential increase in rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression and other chronic diseases.
It doesn't matter if you're a patient in a hospital recovering from cancer, heart attack or a stroke; or a high-powered CEO with access to the latest preventive and genetic screens; or a proactive mom using integrative wellness therapies; or an upwardly mobile technology worker in an emergent economy - no matter how good your intentions, how cutting edge the science or how much information you have available - the moment you step outside the hospital, wellness clinic or spa, you enter a society and culture that is set up for you to fail.
Taking personal responsibility for your health is crucial and we must all learn to make better lifestyle choices. However, I am convinced that the future of wellbeing is contingent on systems and design thinking i.e. the behaviour of a system is dependent on its structure, rather than the personal motivations of the people in it. System structure trumps will power, time after time.
The challenge then is: how might we design prevention and wellbeing into the very structure of our homes, offices, institutions and lives?
Daunting as this might seem, I'm an optimist. If we are capable of creating a failing system, we are equally capable of creating one where the easiest choice is also the best decision for our wellbeing. My life's work is driven by, and dedicated to solving this challenge.
Relentlessly curious and passionately devoted to learning, I love researching ideas and am a huge fan of interdisciplinary collaboration, innovation and philanthropy. A self-confessed TEDaholic and frontline TEDMED Scholar (2012, 2013) I look for connections across disciplines. I am a student for life though most of my sublime learning moments have occurred outside of class - during meditation, immersed in the melody of a trance track, working with children in Mumbai's slums or jumping out of a plane (with a parachute on).