Special report by Evan Morgan
v i l l e h a s t h e o n l y r e g i o n a l urogynaecology training unit in Australia.
He was nominated for the 2011 Australian of the Year Awards and was shortlisted to the final 50.
But Prof Rane is also driven to help those in need in developing countries.
While touring India in 1999 demonstrating new surgical techniques, he went to the Gosha Hos p i t a l f o r Women i n t h e Triplicane slums of Chennai for the first time.
‘‘ It was a hospital designated for the poorest of the poor, the downtrodden of south India.
‘‘ I spent one day there, but I felt I had been there for ever and I felt this is the place I would really like to do my best and help."
Year after year Prof Rane has returned to the hospital, leading a team of nurses and doctors from Australia to train the local staff and perform operations on women with fistulas and prolapses.
The project has become international with surgical teams from the US and Austria also going to the hospital, the only recognised urogynaecological training centre in India for one billion people.
In recognition for his work the fistula ward at the hospital was named after his wife Paula in 2007.
The couple met in Belfast in 1993 where they worked at the Ulster Hospital, often being called on to help victims of bomb explosions.
On their first date at Prof Rane’s hospital flat they had to dive under the dining table because of a bomb blast 500m away.
They regularly donate money to the fistula ward and a bursary, the Murli Rane Oration named after Prof Rane’s father, funds a Gosha doctor to train overseas each year.
Women come from up to 2000km away hoping for an operation that will change their lives. ‘‘ The Professor Ajay Rane at the Townsville Day Surgery
Photo: EVAN MORGAN Professor Ajay Rane at Gosha Hospital with one of his patients much time trying to save lives this was something you could not just sit down and accept."
He decided to make a Bollywood movie to create awareness about the issue despite not knowing the first thing about filmmaking.
‘‘ The grassroots tactic would be p r o d u c i n g a n e n t e r t a i n ment Bollywood movie two hours long with four songs.’’
The result was Riwayat ( see story right), a tale of three women who go through the traumas and challenges of being forced to have a female infanticide.
Since its release in May last year the film has won accolades around
Patients wait for surgery at Gosha Hospital the world and Prof Rane says it has been a revelation to see how people react after seeing the movie.
‘‘ This movie has changed my life because it has given me a great cause to support again.
‘‘ My whole 15-20 years as a doctor has been to champion women’s causes and women’s health."
Having successfully turned the fistula ward at the Gosha Hospital over 10 years into an almost selfsufficient centre, Prof Rane has been looking for a new chapter in his life.
When holding a workshop in Chennai last year he was asked by Prof Pushpa Chaundhary from the Maternity and Women’s Hospital in Kathmandu if he could come to Nepal.
‘‘ I thought, well maybe that is my next fate.
‘ ‘ I t i s a very i mpoverished nation and I believe Nepal has an even worse burden of disease than in Chennai.
‘‘ I hope the condition of the women there will move me and my colleagues sufficiently so we would run another centre there based on the successful Chennai model.
‘‘ If it is the place where gods live then obviously you become closer to God.
‘‘ But I think it would be wonderful to carry on with what we have done in Chennai in many other places and stimulate other colleagues to adopt a similar model to set up these educational centres with surgical expertise to help women to empower them."
In the Indian city of Nasik another of Prof Rane’s patients who had recent surgery for a bowel fistula is now healed and happy.
‘‘ Kamal was a nursing student and she wanted to kill herself because her life was not worth living, but now she is a different person.
‘‘ These conditions don’t happen in the developed world so if you go to underdeveloped countries to help these women it does give you a sense of fulfilment in life.
‘‘ I think that is what life is all about,’’ he said.