In India, there is no recognition, no opportunity: Dr KM Cherian
Deccan Chronicle| j.v. siva prasanna kumar
Dr K.M. Cherian’s biography was recently released and the doctor tells DC that life of a surgeon has always been lonely
Dr K.M. Cherian
Chennai: Despite possessing the best of brains, India lags behind countries such as Kenya or Chile in research due to lack of recognition and opportunities, said Chennai-based world-renowned cardio surgeon Dr K.M. Cherian.
Bureaucratic hurdles bog down the establishment of research institutions in basic medical sciences, he said. As a result very few Indians take up research. "India has only four researchers per 10,000 working people, while Kenya and Chile has 6. Brazil has 14, China18, UK and USA, 79 and Russia, 58," he said.
Major stumbling blocks for scientists are lack of recognition, infrastructure or opportunities. According to Dr Cherian, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ program could scale new heights if it happens in the real sense. "It should not be a slogan. It needs help from every Indian, especially in my field, bureaucrats and regulatory authorities," he said.
Nationalised banks and other private equity partners should understand that research in basic medical sciences has a long gestation period and it can’t be equated with other industries.
He spurned his lucrative career and residential status in USA and Australia and took up a job in Indian Railways and performed the first coronary artery bypass in the country in 1975.
Over the years his name became synonymous with heart surgeries in the country. Looking back over the decades in service to the society breathing lives into many who thought their end was near, Dr K.M. Cherian. More than his "design it was destiny" that made him return to India.
Gives up lucrative career, transforms India
I was 33 then. Any doctor in my position would have remained in US or Australia where I had migrated. In fact, I was one among four earliest Indian doctors who had migrated to Australia after the White Australia policy was changed, and did my post graduation – FRCC there (in 1973). Then I migrated to the US but decided to come back to see whether I can do what I have learnt for my own people," he recollects.
"I did something that many would never do. I bid farewell to a lucrative career drawing a salary of $70,000, returned to (Chennai) India and joined the Railways as ad hoc AMO with Rs 1,071 as monthly salary. Two weeks after homecoming, I performed the first coronary bypass surgery in the country and thereafter many firsts came to be and these prevented me to leave India," Dr Cherian said.
Towards making biological valves
Dr Cherian came up with many new technologies like cardiac stem cells, biological valves, bioprosthetic valves, amplification of red blood cells and creation of artificial blood. All these projects are going at full speed but for bureaucratic elements and lack of financial support, he said.
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