Dr. Samundi Sankari is a name synonymous to infertility treatments in India. Her extensive experience of 42 years in gynaecology includes 23 years of practice in infertility treatment. Over the years, she has received several recognitions and accolades, both national and international, for her contribution to the field of medicine. She is the founder and medical director of one of India’s most successful IVF centres, Srushti Fertility Centre.
In her interview with IVFGurus, Dr. Sankari discusses her long career and current IVF scene in India.
IVF Gurus: You started off as a gynaecologist. When did you move into infertility treatments, and what made you select this particular field?
Dr. Sankari: In the year 1983, I was deputed by the Government of India to do research and study on infertility. For further trainings, I went to Singapore in 1984. Then I started training under Dr. Ratnam and later on started with a small clinic in Chennai with Dr.Lalita, in the same year. 1993 was the year when I got into infertility treatment completely.This is the time we introduced GIFT procedure in India, which was previously done in few countries like Singapore, USA, etc. In 1999, we opened a small center in Srinagar.
IVF Gurus: How did you train for this new field of medicine?
Dr. Sankari: I did my M.B.B.S. from Kilpauk Medical College, Chennai. In 1978, I did Diploma in Anesthesia from Madras Medical College.After that in 1980, I did a diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from Madras Medical College. Then in the year 1981, I did my Master degree in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
In the year 1984, I went to different infertility treatment trainings in Singapore, Sydney, Germany and UK, and also attended various infertility Reproductive Surgery, Micro surgery, and Laparoscopy and IVF trainings.
IVF Gurus: Approximately, how many cases of infertility have you handled during your extensive career?
Dr. Sankari: It has been so many years, it is hard to keep an account of it, but it will be more than 20,000.
IVF Gurus: You are a part of various national and international forums and have received numerous awards as well. Any recognition that is particularly close to your heart?
Dr. Sankari: I always felt for the poor section of society, those facing infertility issues; they also have the urge to have their own biological child. We designed a new IVF methodology which is affordable for them and has the same success rate as normal IVF. We also promote egg donation programs and surrogacy programs.I got awarded with Lifetime Achievement Award in infertility from the Governor of Tamil Nadu as well as other international awards.
IVF Gurus: Moving the focus to your infertility clinic, what would you say is the patient footfall?
Dr. Sankari: We give consultation to around 40 patients in a day in Srushti. These days, we are getting a lot of cancer patients, who before going for radiotherapy or chemotherapy, visit us to preserve their egg, gamete or sperm as these therapies affect the reproductive health and may lead to infertility.
IVF Gurus: Can you give a brief description of the various treatments done in Srushti? Is there a particular procedure your clinic is more adept at?
Dr. Sankari: Srushti offers IUI, Green IVF, Mini IVF, Conventional IVF, ICSI, Reproductive Surgery, Micro Surgery, Egg & Sperm Donation programs, Surrogacy, Sperm Retrieval Procedures such as TESE, TESA, Micro- TESE, PESA, MESA, Cryopreservation, Maternity, and Women & Child care & Counselling. All IVF procedures such as ICSI, blastocyst Transfer, Laser Assisted Hatching and all other procedures are done by the embryologists under my supervision. But, if we talk of preferred procedures, it would be reproductive surgeries; not because I am expert in it, but because this is one permanent solution to the problem of infertility. If the couple has a surgical issue, it can be treated by that.
IVF Gurus: Can you recall a case which you handled and are particularly proud of?
Dr. Sankari: There was a lady who had no uterus. This condition is called as MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser Syndrome). It is very rare. Only one woman out of 5000 has this problem. When she came to me, she was disheartened and had lost all hope. We did egg stimulation and retrieved her eggs. Those eggs got transferred to the surrogate, and she finally had her biological child, which was one thing very impossible for her to imagine. This is one very critical case that is close to my heart.
IVF Gurus: Please tell us a bit more about your infrastructure and support staff.
Dr. Sankari: We have all the amenities are required for good patient care. We are having seven incubators at our centers. The best equipment is available in our centers, which we keep on upgrading.
We have six to seven IVF doctors in two centers and more than 50 plus non – medical staff for support services. We also give training to doctors in infertility treatment.
The best part of our center is the home-like feel and personalized care. We have made our protocols flexible, they are custom made for each patients based on their medical history. So the whole model is patient-friendly and well-designed for the patient’s comfort and benefit.
IVF Gurus: Which part of the country do maximum of your patients come from? Are there any special facilities and services for patients who may not be living in the state?
Dr. Sankari: Currently, we are getting patients from about 55 countries such as USA, Nigeria, Singapore, Srilanka, UK, Canada, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. The Srushti Hospital in Ramapuram is closely connected to DLF IT Park where so many IT centers are there. Here people have very stressful lifestyle which leads to infertility. So I opened up a center here to give a hand to patients, where people are suffering from these issues most. Our Rampuram center is at a very peaceful and pollution free location, which is well- connected to the city. The whole environment away from city life is patient-friendly and gives a sense of happiness to our patients, which helps in good pregnancy.
The Srushti Fertility Center in Kotturpuram is also in the heart of the city and well connected. We also have accommodation facilities close-by to both our centers for outstation patients.
IVF Gurus: What has been your cumulative success rate at the centres?
Dr. Sankari: It depends on the condition of the patient. We do all the ART procedures. The success rate is 47-50% considering many factors involved. Currently, we are having a high success rates in Mini IVF, IUI, and Egg Donation programs.
IVF Gurus: How do you define the increase in infertility cases in India?
Dr. Sankari: Initially infertility was considered as a western disease. But now there is about 30% rise in number of girls having polycystic ovarian diseases. The other reason for the increase in infertility is the delay in marriage as with the increasing age, the quality of eggs fade.
In males too, there is an enormous increase in infertility as they are into excessive smoking and drinking from an early age which affects their sperm count and its motility.
IVF Gurus: What sets your hospital apart from other infertility centres?
Dr. Sankari: The personalized care and ethical practice are most important in IVF treatment and we assure the same to our patients.
IVF Gurus: Is IVF hard to go through?
Dr. Sankari: These days the process has become easier, we use Minimal Stimulation in IVF which minimizes discomfort, risks (especially of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome), and costs. An additional benefit is a marked reduction in the likelihood of unused embryos. So these days with the advancements of technology,it is not tough anymore. Also IVF needs a lot of counselling so that the patient can take failure and success both.
IVF Gurus: What is your opinion about www.ivfgurus.com?
Dr. Sankari: IVFGurus is doing very good work. They are connecting people those who want help and those who can help. So it is a very good initiative.
Disclaimer: The views, opinions and facts expressed by the respondents are expressly their own. Users are suggested to validate all facts before making treatment decisions.