Seeing his patients beam is his most prized possession. It was little surprise then when the prestigious Dr B.C. Roy National Award was bestowed on Dr Digumarti Raghunadharao this year by the Medical Council of India for his contributions in different branches of oncology. He won the award in the category: ‘To recognise the best talent in encouraging the development of specialities in different branches of medicine (oncology).’
After working at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad, Dr Raghunadharao has been heading the Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Center (HBCHRC) in Aganampudi, near Vizag, as a director since 2013. “I worked in Hyderabad for 24 years, since 1989-2013. It was a great experience; I started the Twin Cities Cancer Club and Hyderabad Metropolitan Cancer Registry,” he says.
Besides being the first medical oncologist of (united) Andhra Pradesh, Dr Rao had many firsts to his credit, including establishing the first Medical Oncology department and a comprehensive cancer care centre in 1989, setting up a clinical research facility in 1992, starting a DM Medical Oncology Course in 2005 and establishing the first population-based Cancer Registry in 2012 in Andhra Pradesh at the Nims. He was quick to point out that many medications, which are currently being prescribed for cancer treatment, had undergone trials at the Nims.
“I had been passionate about experimental medicine since I was a student at Andhra Medical College. I spent most of my time in the laboratory. I learnt drug development techniques and ethical principles of drug trials at the Cancer Institute of Madras University and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto,” says Raghunadharao.
Explaining his new roles at the HBCHRC, he explains that their focus is currently on preventive oncology, palliative care, hospice care, day care and chemotherapy.
“We have been planning to set up a ‘city centre’ equipped with the surgical suites with the help of the Vizag Port Trust. The HBCHRC has cutting-edge diagnostic facilities. The centre will be ready in a full-fledged manner in the next few months. Our mandate is to create manpower to serve the cancer patients across the state at our own cost. We provide training at free of cost and if the trainees want to continue with us, we absorb them into services,” he says.