Rajeev Diddy: A shining Indian in Germany
It's been a long haul from a medical college in New Delhi to Essen, but Rajeev Diddy has made a seamless transition, becoming the only Indian-born radiologist licensed to privately practise in the German city - and picking up four MD certifications in his specialty along the way.
He sees up to 100 patients a day from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and then writes up the reports, a task that takes another two to three hours. Saturdays and Sundays are holidays, but "managerial issues invariably arise" as the practice is linked to the home in real time.
"If you want to keep your nose in front, if you want to compete with the best, you have to be on the cutting edge," Diddy, 54, who was in New Delhi on a private visit, said modestly of his $5 million practice.
What makes his achievement all the more creditable is the fact that it has happened in a "non-immigration country" that permits expatriate doctors but licenses very few to practise privately.
"I'm the only Indian doctor with a one-man show in Essen. I am not too sure about the rest of Germany or Europe, but there can't be many more," said Diddy, who was born in Batala in Punjab and had his schooling in Delhi.
"In a way, Germany happened quite by accident. After my MBBS (from Maulana Azad Medical College), I had just obtained by MD in radiology (from Delhi University) when I visited my father, who was posted in the Indian embassy in Bonn.
"I liked what I saw and was lucky enough to get a job as an assistant doctor at the Essen University Medical College," Diddy added.
That was in 1978. Two things happened in 1981: he shifted to the prestigious Marion Hospital in Essen as an associate professor and also met a girl named Monika, whom he was to marry later in the year.
"That was also when I started thinking about breaking out on my own or taking a shot at becoming chief of a hospital. I decided on private practice," said Diddy.
But he had to first get a German MD in radiology, which he obtained in 1986. He was given permission to set up private practice the next year.
"In the early 1990s, the German authorities separated radiology into diagnostics and therapy so I obtained two more MDs. Then, in the mid-1990s, with the number of tests increasing, I had to appear before a board to be re-certified," Diddy said.
He counts 1984 as another landmark year.
"I had to decide: Shall I keep my passport or become a German citizen? There were sentiments involved, but since I had decided I would one day go on my own, I realised I would be on a battleground where I would have to compete with the locals.
"Then, there are the local laws; you never know when they may come in the way. So I decided to apply for citizenship," he added.
"My wife stood by me like a rock in the rough ocean of mankind. The base was made but I had to brush my knowledge day by day to stay in the race," Diddy said.
The Diddys have two sons. Benjamin, 22, is studying to become a doctor while Nicholas, 18, is in high school and keen on a career in IT.
Nicholas, in fact, controls the completely wired Diddy residence.
"If we have a problem, we have to hope he has the time to fix it," Diddy said with a laugh.