A globetrotting tale from Bombay to London: dancing, research, and science

28 February 2022

Growing up in India and Kuwait, Roshni shares her story from her early childhood, her university days in the USA and her time in Germany, to settling with her family in the UK and what led her to become a Senior Clinical Trials Practitioner at Kingston Hospital.

Birthplace to Rudyard Kipling, Salman Rushdie and Homi Bhabha, Roshni grew up in Bombay (since she was a baby), which was renamed Mumbai in 1995. She adds: “Both my parents’ families are of south Indian heritage. Growing up in Bombay was incredible – we were exposed to different cultures, and people from all walks of life. I’m really proud of my heritage.”

Roshni’s father’s job meant a move for the family to Kuwait, where they stayed for nine years. “Life in Kuwait was like Bombay; we were part of an Indian community and had many Arab and international friends.”

In June 1990, Roshni’s aunt died suddenly. She says: “We flew back to India for the funeral. My parents adopted my two cousins and from then on, I had three siblings instead of one. Only dad stayed back in Kuwait.”

Shortly after, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Roshni adds: “Our life changed; we couldn’t go back to Kuwait. We didn’t hear from dad for several months, but eventually he got out with a convoy through Jordan. We went from having everything to nothing. This kind of experience teaches you about life and resilience.”

Roshni went on to finish her undergraduate in nutritional science in Bombay, became a registered dietician and completed her masters, too. She shares: “Initially I had joined medical school, but much to my family’s dismay, because most southern Indian people either become doctors or engineers, it wasn’t for me. I wanted to pursue research because the creativity of conceiving ideas into research projects, that ultimately help people, was very appealing to me.”

With a PhD scholarship and a one-way ticket, Roshni travelled 8,500 miles to Pennsylvania, USA. She adds: “I experienced winter for the first time – so much snow – I absolutely loved it. Spending 10-hour days in the lab, I adjusted to life away from home on an international campus. Uni is also where I met my husband, Boris, who is German. After 20 years of marriage, people joke that I look quite Indian, but inside I’m quite German; in the sense that I love their straightforwardness and honesty.”

After her PhD, Roshni started postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins in immunology. She says: “After 9/11, we decided to move to Munich in Germany, closer to Boris’ family and to India. There I started my second postdoctoral training at the Technical University of Munich in nuclear medicine.”

“In 2007, Boris got a new job in London, and we relocated to the UK. I worked at the UCL Royal Free Hospital in hepatology which was my first insight into an academic university hospital in the UK. Next, it was in cardiology at Kings College, Denmark Hill. These were wonderful research opportunities and gave me a real insight to understand different specialties.”

Having found their dream family house, they moved from Southfields to Kingston. Roshni says: “Our two girls were young at that time, and I did not want to take up a full-time research job. In 2013, I joined Kingston Hospital’s volunteering team which I found extremely inspiring.”

Roshni then started working in Occupational Therapy and has been at Kingston Hospital in various roles ever since. She adds: “In early 2021, I joined the Research team. My role is patient focused and currently I am responsible for the delivery of the dermatology portfolio and a few other studies. I’m responsible for identifying eligible patients, consenting, organising patient assessments and visits, seeing patients in clinic, coordinating collection and preparation of biological samples, and supporting patients throughout the delivery of their care on clinical trials.”

When asked what she likes to do outside of work, Roshni replies: “I’ve danced since I was three. I’m a trained Indian classical dancer and a flamenco dancer. I also make semi-precious jewellery.”

If she wasn’t a Senior Clinical Trials Practitioner, what job would Roshni like to do? She replies: “I would be a jewellery designer. I love a bit of bling. There’s also the mineralogy and the geology angle to it that interests me, which comes from when my dad took us to the diamond mines.”

When asked about the best part of her job. Roshni shares: “I love my job and the interaction with patients, clinical teams and various other stakeholders. Research has always been my passion. We have lots to be proud of at Kingston as we strive to improve health through research. We are doing well with engagement from our patients and our clinical teams and if we can use research to develop creative solutions together at Kingston to improve patient care, than that would be the icing on the cake for me.”

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