Meet the doctors who have turned their passions into alternative professions

The doctors are defying conventions and challenging stereotypes

24-Dr-Sanjay-Meriya Disc drive: Dr Sanjay Meriya is a hip-hop artiste, who goes by the name The SpinDoctor | LostFilms

In a world that goes round and is round, we are often boxed in, based on colour, caste, religion, gender, occupation and more.

Appearances, they say, can be deceptive. But that’s not the case with Dr Sanjay Meriya. He looks and speaks more like a hip-hop artiste than a doctor. He is both though. There are more like Sanjay―an ENT specialist who will check on you even as he cracks a joke during his standup act; a dentist-singer who will appreciate your sweet voice but not your sweet tooth; a nuclear medicine specialist who discovers new stories and talent for films as much as he detects diseases; a doctor couple who married medicine with their passion for fashion; and a dermatologist whose acting, be it on stage or screen, is anything but skin-deep.

Meet the doctors who are defying conventions and challenging stereotypes to carve out their unique space and identity.

Laughter is the best medicine

26-Dr-Jagadish-Chaturvedi Dr Jagadish Chaturvedi

What follows a hilarious standup comedy act? Applause, cheer, flowers, requests for selfies and autographs? Dr Jagadish Chaturvedi, an ENT specialist-cum-standup comic gets all that and more―his fans come bearing medical reports. Curious, Chaturvedi once asked a man why he had showed up at the comedy club, instead of the outpatient department, with his CT scan report. Without batting an eyelid, the man quipped, “At the clinic, it is 01,000 for your consultation. Here, it is 250 bucks, plus I get two beers free.”

Dr Jagadish Chaturvedi Dr Jagadish Chaturvedi

Such unexpected humour is gold for Chaturvedi, 39, from Bengaluru, and he treasures it in his notes. “I refine these thoughts through repetition, starting from one-on-one conversations and progressing to small shows,”he says. “I evaluate the audience's reactions, pinpointing moments of laughter and then fine-tune the sentences until they consistently evoke a humorous response.”

I evaluate the audience's reactions, pinpointing moments of laughter and then fine-tune the sentences until they consistently evoke a humorous response. - Dr Jagadish Chaturvedi, ENT specialist-cum-standup comic

Chaturvedi’s tryst with art began in theatre. His father, who loved to act, would take him to workshops at Bangalore Little Theatre. “As a child artiste, I performed with some big names in the Kannada theatre circuit like Prema Karanth,”he recalls. Even during his MBBS days at Sri Siddhartha Medical College in Tumakuru, he found time for theatre. But he had to give it up during postgraduation as he could barely keep up with the studies, clinical practice and Bengaluru’s traffic. As he skipped rehearsals, which could go on for three to four months, directors and production houses shunned him. That is when Chaturvedi started thinking about a form that would give him the freedom to practise both medicine and art.

Standup comedy was picking up then, and his experience in writing theatre monologues came in handy. He became a standup comic in 2015. “In contrast to theatre monologues, where the character's perspective takes precedence over audience reactions, comedy relies heavily on immediate audience feedback,”he explains.

As he refined his comic timing, he improvised when it came to medicine as well. When he was in St. John’s Medical College and posted in a rural area to screen for throat cancer, he had trouble using a mirror-like tool to see the vocal cords. “It was a skill issue for me because many people are able to do that very well,”says Chaturvedi. To overcome his shortcoming, he thought of attaching a digital camera to an endoscope, which eventually developed into a low-cost ear, nose and throat imaging device. The device landed him in MIT Technology Review’s Innovators Under 35 list in 2016.

Since then, Chaturvedi has been part of teams that developed around 20 innovative medical devices, of which nine are already in the market. One of them is HiiiH-Tex Pocket ENT Wireless Endoscope, a portable device his team developed for paediatricians, general practitioners and family physicians for patient examination; it is now being used in Africa, the Middle East and India. Chaturvedi says that thanks to the device, he checks on his patients even while travelling for shows. “I have a clinic which has some junior doctors who use this device [to send inputs to me],”he says. “So, I am constantly in touch with patients, and I am able to give them advice and consultation anytime, even while going for shows.”

Screening, at a lab and theatre near you


Dr Ajith Joy, a nuclear medicine consultant, has a finger in almost every pie. The pie that easily catches the eye is films―he has produced four. His latest―Aattam (2023)―won the Grand Jury Award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. That same year, he introduced a unique initiative under his firm, Dr. Joy's Mamografia, offering women a decade of breast cancer screening for a minimal one-time payment. That’s not all. A serial entrepreneur, he has invested time and money in Netrasemi, a microchip firm; Aramis, an Al-based medical imaging and analysis software firm; DDNMRC group of nuclear medicine and therapy centres; and multiple other businesses in the segments of real estate and farm plantations. “I am a nuclear medicine physician by qualification and profession, but prior to that, I am a second-generation businessman,”he says.

I am a nuclear medicine physician by qualification and profession, but prior to that, I am a second-generation businessman. - Dr Ajith Joy, also a film producer (right, with Aattam director Anand Ekarshi)

In 1983, Joy’s father, the late K. Joy Joseph, introduced the concept of private pathology labs in Kerala through his Doctors Diagnostic Centre Private Limited. “Its research division―Doctor's Diagnostic Research Centre (DDRC)―which was formed in 1990 later on expanded to become Kerala's largest diagnostic network,”says Joy, who adds that he has been involved with the lab business since class 10.

Joy, 47, studied medicine at Al-Ameen Medical College in Karnataka. Post MBBS, he got a diploma in radioimmunoassay techniques from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai. He chose molecular medicine and nuclear imaging with targeted therapeutics as his specialisation and completed his postgraduation from Radiation Medicine Centre, Tata Memorial Hospital, in Mumbai in 2004. Why this specialisation, we ask. “When we examine the root cause of any disease, it inevitably leads us to the cell―that means it is nuclear,”he says. “Delving into a subject that goes so deeply into the core, where interventions can be made, treatments administered, modifications enacted or even complete annihilation achieved, is truly fascinating.”

In 2003, even before completing his postgraduation, Joy founded his nuclear medicine therapy centre―DDNMRC―with the aim of providing affordable nuclear medicine cancer treatment. In the next two decades, Joy introduced numerous advanced technologies in nuclear medicine to Kerala, his home state, which has one of the highest cancer incidence rates in India. This includes establishing the state's first medical cyclotron facility under his firm, Molecular Cyclotrons, which now supplies various F-18 radiopharmaceuticals, which are used in PET scans, to over 24 facilities. The F-18 isotopes have a half-life of just 109.8 minutes, making it nearly impossible to transport them from distant locations. Previously, cancer patients in Kerala had to rely on PET scans from other states, making the process expensive and time-consuming. Now, Joy says they “are not only providing [radiopharmaceuticals] to Kerala but also to southern Tamil Nadu”.

In 2021, SRL Diagnostics (later rebranded as Agilus Diagnostics), which had been a joint venture partner with DDRC since 2010, completed the acquisition of DDRC, thus becoming the largest pathology laboratory chain in the country. When the discussion about the acquisition was on, Joy began contemplating his next move. “And, one of the ideas that emerged was arts, music and entertainment,”he says. That led him to establish his film production house, Joy Productions, in 2021. And, the first thing he did was bring in post-production infrastructure, including a high-quality colour grading studio and a full-fledged VFX and graphics studio. He also introduced several high-tech production equipment to Kerala.

Joy believes that “a movie is actually made in pre-production and post-production”, and he has brought in corporate-like professionalism in film production. The four films he produced were directed by debutant filmmakers. He has a system for discovering new talent and stories. “But at the end of the day, I definitely have to hear the story before agreeing to take up a project,”he says, recalling that he heard the story of his biggest blockbuster, Mukundan Unni Associates (2022), while sitting in a casino in New Orleans during a conference. Additionally, he supports independent musicians with his Joy Music. His own taste in music is diverse―from English classical and western cowboy tunes to Malayalam melodies, eastern classical and even rock.

Not just music, Joy has dabbled in painting as well. He rekindled his childhood passion during the Covid-19 lockdown when he found himself stuck in Abu Dhabi for many months. “I never had time to paint since my [medical] college days,”he says. “But during the Covid phase, I completed some 46 paintings.”

He is in India for only 10 days a month. “Rest of the time, I am probably hunting technology across the globe or based in Dubai,”he says.

All work and plays

30-Dr-Anil-Abraham Dr Anil Abraham

What connects dermatology and theatre? If you ask Bengaluru-based dermatologist Dr Anil Abraham, he will offer a philosophical answer, highlighting the profound “body-mind”connection celebrated by both disciplines. “A seemingly minor issue like acne on the face, a white patch on the arm, or hair loss in a young man can deeply affect the psyche,”he explains. “Often, the skin reflects what lies beneath the surface. The pallor of anaemia, the early yellowing of jaundice, the fungal infections of undetected diabetes, or the under-eye bags from disturbed sleep―all these are telltale signs of lifestyle and internal conflicts. The same principle applies to theatre and comedy. While the surface message may appear light, the underlying thought often prompts reflection. We may laugh at the surface humour, yet the deeper message may be overlooked. Seemingly silly comedy can convey profound ideas.”

With more than 30 years of experience, Abraham, 60, is one of the most sought-after medical professionals in the country for hair-loss treatment. After his fellowship at Stanford University, he underwent training under Eugene Farber, a dermatologist celebrated for groundbreaking research on psoriasis and allergies. Abraham, formerly the head of the dermatology department at St. John’s Medical College, now runs his own institution―Abrahams Skin & Hair Clinic.

Most people pigeonhole doctors into a narrow mould, expecting them to be serious and uninteresting individuals.... These outdated stereotypes need to be consigned to the past. - Dr Anil Abraham, dermatologist and actor

A distinguished speaker at international conferences and with contributions to international publications, Abraham did not let the universal ‘log kya kahenge (what will people say)’view alter his viewpoint. “Most people pigeonhole doctors into a narrow mould, expecting them to be serious and uninteresting individuals with minimal artistic interests or inclinations,”he says. “These outdated stereotypes need to be consigned to the past. The obstacle lies within the mind, and overcoming it is also a mental feat.”

Abraham's foray into theatre began during his school days. Even before turning 15, he had already graced the stage in productions such as Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author. Over the years, he was part of numerous iconic plays, including an ART production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Arjun Sajnani’s rendition of Girish Karnad’s Tughlaq. Under the tutelage of stalwarts like Prakash Belawadi, Kirtana Kumar, Ashish Sengupta and Arundhati Raja, Abraham honed his theatrical skills. Additionally, he ventured into playwriting and directing. He skilfully integrated social and medical themes into his comic play Gentlemen. His background in theatre helped him create comic content for social media. Collaborating with renowned comedians such as Papa CJ and Danish Sait, he showcased his versatility on stage and screen. During the Covid lockdown, his comedic video series, 'Ungle’s Simbil Solutions', went viral. Furthermore, Abraham made memorable cameo appearances in films like Rocketry: The Nambi Effect (2022).

“I choose to find time to do everything I want to do,”he says. “I do my rehearsals outside my work hours. When I am a doctor attending to my patients, I am fully present in that moment, giving it my complete attention. Similarly, when I am on stage performing a role or bringing laughter through improv comedy or standup, I am entirely committed to that role. It is not a split focus; it is 100 per cent dedication every time.”

Spin doctor of a different kind

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Dr Sanjay Meriya’s hands have healed people; those very hands have also ‘scratched’out new tunes, for he is a turntablist, too. Sanjay, 34, is an acclaimed hip-hop artiste, known by his stage name ‘The SpinDoctor’.

Sanjay no longer actively practices medicine. However, in an exclusive revelation to THE WEEK, he shares that he is the primary physician to many prominent figures in the Indian hip-hop scene. “Everybody in my circle in the music scene will call me… like at midnight and all,”he says. “These big artistes… they will call me and they will be like, ‘Yo, I'm having this issue, that issue. Can you help me out?’ So yeah, they trust my opinion.”

Sanjay says that he was a studious child and his childhood dream was to be an astronaut, not a hip-hop artiste or a doctor. Medicine was his mother’s dream―“My mother once had an open-heart surgery; she wanted me to pursue medicine and help people,”he says.

Sanjay started listening to hip-hop while preparing for medicine. He cracked the entrance exam and joined the Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai in 2007. “The medical college days were hectic and that is when I thought about picking up a hobby,”he says. The Indian rap scene was still in its nascent stage, and Sanjay found a place in Mumbai’s Gully Gang led by rapper DIVINE. By the time he graduated, Sanjay emerged as a respected battle DJ. “I used to do a good gig,”he recalls. “People respected me for my skills; back then I was the only turntablist in the Mumbai hip-hop scene.”

My exposure to the medical field made me understand that one needs to respect life.... Music on the other hand taught me to explore life and avoid getting stuck in a cycle. - Dr Sanjay Meriya, hip-hop artiste

Following his graduation, Sanjay worked at a rural hospital for a year. After that, he started his own clinic in Borivali in northwest Mumbai. However, managing his clinical practice and his travels for music proved to be quite difficult, and a year later, he decided to focus just on music.

This phase saw him playing alongside hip-hop legends like Tyga and DJ Stretch Armstrong. “But then my musical career grew exponentially,”he says. “I had plenty of shows in India and abroad.”

And then Covid came and Sanjay willingly returned to medicine. He applied for medical volunteering after spotting a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation ad. In April 2020, he started working as a medical volunteer in one of Mumbai’s worst-hit suburbs―Andheri East. Sanjay worked tirelessly, screening hundreds of patients. He used his innate humour and musical skills to entertain fellow doctors and others who had been working alongside him. As the Covid waves subsided, Sanjay switched his focus back to hip-hop. “But if I feel that society needs my service as a doctor, I will definitely come back, and put my medical degree to some use,”he says.

There is an interesting story behind his stage name. “In the beginning, my stage name was DJ Sanjay; then for some time it was DJ Doctor,”says Sanjay. “One night in 2016, my mentor called me randomly and told me: ‘I don't like your name―DJ Doctor…from now onwards you are The SpinDoctor.’Then he hung up. It was weird but special. And, I felt the new name was really good.”

During his early days as a DJ, Sanjay would “flex”his medical degree. “In the DJing world, I used to tell people that I am a doctor, too, to impress them; similarly in the medical world, I used to tell people that I am a DJ, too,”he says. “But now I am at the point of my life where I try to keep them separate.”

Both his worlds have taught him life lessons. “My exposure to the medical field made me understand that one needs to respect life―you need to take care of your health and body and be disciplined,”he says. “Music on the other hand taught me to explore life and avoid getting stuck in a cycle.”

Dressing, not just wounds

September 1, 2011. That date is etched in Dr Vibhuti Dhaundiyal’s mind. That’s the day she first met her batchmate, later friend and now husband Dr Rishi Roy. Ludhiana lad Roy and Noida native Dhaundiyal met at the Muzaffarnagar Medical College in Bahadarpur, Uttar Pradesh. Roy was chatty and outgoing, Dhaundiyal his opposite. But a beautiful friendship began, which eventually saw them become partners not just in business but also in life.

Today, Roy is an orthopaedic surgeon, while Dhaundiyal is a clinical cosmetologist. But they effectively take forward their shared passion for fashion, which they found accidentally during their college days. It all started when the duo, to save some money, designed a dress for Vibhuti for a college event. The “budget”piece, however, attracted a lot of attention and soon they started getting orders from friends and others in college.

With an initial investment of Rs2 lakh, they launched their brand―Rishi & Vibhuti―with three karigars (artisans) in 2015. Their first collection, The Empress of Light, was showcased at a trunk show. Today, their brand has a full workshop with master tailors, karigars, a finishing team, design team and fashion interns.

“Juggling both worlds can be challenging, but our dedication to both medicine and fashion keeps us on our toes,”says Dhaundiyal. “It is about prioritising and efficient time management, ensuring neither profession compromises the other.”

Juggling both worlds can be challenging, but our dedication to both medicine and fashion keeps us on our toes. - Dr Vibhuti Dhaundiyal, cosmetologist and fashion designer (in pic with husband Dr Rishi Roy)

The doctor duo, both 30, finds patrons of their fashion among patients, too. “It is a delightful intersection. Once, a design inspiration struck during a medical mission, resulting in a collection that echoed the vibrant culture we experienced,”recalls Roy.

The couple’s skills complement each other―Roy’s knack for production and Dhaundiyal’s creative flair form the perfect synergy for a fashion venture. “Rishi brings designs to life while I infuse narratives,”explains Dhaundiyal. “We brainstorm ideas, ensuring each piece tells a story. It is a dynamic process where creativity flows, marrying aesthetics with meaningful themes.”

The brand concentrates on affordable luxury. Unusual cuts and combinations, pant saris, indie fusion and muted ivory ensembles have been the brand’s signature. The couple dreams of showcasing their collection at international fashion weeks.

Roy is a trained Kathak dancer, whereas Dhaundiyal is a singer and ukulele player. Roy says that the diverse passions breathe life into their designs. “Kathak influences fluid silhouettes, cooking sparks vibrant colour choices, ukulele tunes inspire patterns, and singing sets the rhythm,”he explains. “It is an eclectic mix that defines our brand's unique identity.”

But diverse passions may lead to creative differences, too. “Creative differences are inevitable,”says Dhaundiyal. “We embrace them, valuing each other's perspective. Communication is key; we find common ground by respecting our individual strengths, often discovering that the best ideas emerge from a blend of our creative energies.”

Melody and medicine


Legendary singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (SPB) once likened her voice to that of S. Janaki. In 2020, when 'Chuttu Chuttu', a song from the comedy drama Raambo 2, became the first Kannada song to surpass 100 million views on YouTube, composer Arjun Janya expressed his gratitude to Dr Shamitha Malnad with a box of sweets. He credited her vocals as a driving force behind the song's tremendous success. Sweet as Janya’s gesture was, that box of sweets may not have been ideal, considering Malnad is a dentist.

Consistent practice and staying updated are crucial in both fields. Because styles evolve, systems change and equipment advances. - Dr Shamitha Malnad, dentist and playback singer

Malnad, who has won the state and Filmfare awards for playback singing, runs a clinic with a college friend in Bengaluru. Both dentistry and playback singing entered her life unexpectedly. “My mother used to sing and teach me for school-level competitions,”she recounts, noting the absence of structured classical music training during childhood. “My exposure to music at that time was primarily for competitions or events. I was fully focused on my studies and aspired to become a gynaecologist. My parents, particularly my father, shared this aspiration.”

During her high school years, Malnad received training from Chikmari Gowda, a graded singer at Akashavani, for competitions. It was Gowda who paved the way for her career as a playback singer in 1996. When a group approached Gowda to release a devotional album, he suggested Malnad’s name. The album, titled Kanive Kabbali, gained immense popularity, bringing further opportunities in devotional songs during her teenage years.

However, Malnad faced a setback in her entrance examinations. “My rank was a little low, and I didn't secure admission for MBBS. So, I pursued dentistry instead,”she says. “But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, compared to MBBS, dentistry offered a less hectic schedule and allowed me a bit more time for music.”During this period, Malnad also began learning Hindustani classical music under the tutelage of the late Pandit Sheshadri Gawai.

Malnad, 46, made her debut in film playback singing in 2002. “Music director Gurukiran offered me my first song,”she recalls. “He didn't reveal that he intended to use my voice for the final track, so as not to make me nervous. It wasn't until a month later, after the cassette was released, that I discovered my voice had been retained for the final track.”Despite the challenges of balancing her studies with her career in playback singing, Malnad persevered. Soon after finishing her studies, she promptly began her medical practice in Bengaluru.

Meanwhile, her musical career soared as she lent her voice to over 4,000 albums across languages. She collaborated with renowned music directors in the Kannada film industry and sang duets with iconic singers such as SPB, Shankar Mahadevan and Udit Narayan.

Malnad reveals that within the music industry, there is a group of individuals that seeks her advice not only for dental issues but also for other matters. “Then there is another group that mistakenly assumes I hold a PhD,”she says. The singer-dentist emphasises the importance of the word “practice”in both dentistry and music. “Consistent practice and staying updated are crucial in both fields,”she says. “Because styles evolve, systems change and equipment advances.”