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It was the proverbial destiny that brought a young medico to do her house surgency with a young surgeon who was known to work with only male students. Unfazed by his reputation, she continued and in course of time worked her way into his heart too. Dr. Nageshwar Reddy and Dr. Carol Ann Reddy started their journey together at Madras Medical College three decades ago and continue on the path of glorious achievements.
The recent announcement of Padma Bhushan to Dr. Nageshwar Reddy for his contribution in the field of Gastroenterology is merely the cherry on top. “This award is a by-product of the work we do,” says Dr. Reddy as matter of fact. Only the third Gastroenterologist to get a Padma Bhushan, the award is also being given to a doctor after 40 years – the last being to Dr. P. Shiva Reddy in 1971. “It’s normally Cardiology which garners attention. So this award is a recognition to the speciality,” he says.
Dr. Carol Ann, who had realised early on, her husband’s growing passion towards Gastroenterology, chose to specialise in the less demanding Dermatology, thus providing unwavering support to her husband’s vision that saw the finest Gastroenterolgy institute being established in Hyderabad. Today, she’s content seeking an appointment with her husband to have a conversation or seize the opportunity to travel with him when he attends meetings abroad. “When I reach home around 11.30 -12 in the night, she’s awake and we get to spend half an hour quality time and often catch up on phone during day,” shares Dr. Reddy, who spends close to 18 hours in the hospital.
Dr. Carol adds, “I’m an adult and I understand the situation, but I give credit to my daughter who never made any demands nor fuss about her dad not being around when she was growing up.
“People often ask me how do I manage such long working hours? Believe me, if you enjoy your work, it won’t feel like a burden and you’ll not be tired,” says Dr. Reddy who admits the only place he gets tired is in a shopping mall. “Within five minutes of entering a shop, I feel tired. I don’t do any shopping…I don’t even know what my shirt size is. My wife takes care of everything,” he says looking at her gratefully
Did they feel disappointed their only daughter did not become a doctor but chose to be an engineer? Dr. Carol replies, “We respect her choice. She saw her father working so hard and confided to me that she needed a life.” Dr. Reddy adds with a smile, “Sanjana works twice as hard as me in the US now. She could have been a good doctor. She’s basically a very patient and calm person.” A trait she inherited from her father indeed, a wee bit more. The father was anything but that in his childhood. The eldest of four siblings – three boys and one girl — young Nageshwar Reddy gave nightmares to his parents with his mischievous acts. A hot topic in the family is a childhood incident involving the three brothers. The childish curiosity to see how petrol burns had resulted in their garage being burnt down completely, recollects Dr. Reddy. The last straw for his parents was when he put his one-year brother in the fridge “to protect him from the summer heat” while they were living in Visakhapatnam. “When my mother opened the fridge she got the shock of her life, by then my brother was turning blue.
Dr. Carol’s father was a cardiologist from Ongole while Dr. Nageshwar Reddy’s father was a well-know pathologist who served as the Vice-Chancellor of Kurnool Medical College. Do the couple take inspiration from their respective doctor fathers? Dr. Reddy replies, “We were fortunate to have our parents as role models. They gave us values that we believe we should pass on to our children, not the wealth.” The same values, the doctor couple hope, would be imbibed by the medical fraternity in large. “A good doctor is made of 70 per cent aptitude and 30 per cent skill. To have empathy towards a patient is more important,” says Dr. Reddy and recalls Canadian author and journalist Malcom Gladwell’s ‘10,000-hour of practice’ theory. “Over time with practice, everybody can attain certain skill and can become the best. But empathy needs to be carefully inculcated.” Agrees Dr. Carol Ann, “Most of my patients say half of their problems get solved just by talking to me. There are all kinds of patients; the elderly who have many woes to share, the youngsters who think they have none to share their problems with— I give them a patient ear and they are very happy.”
Dr. Reddy says medicine is faith-based too. “Doctors have the unique opportunity to heal people. Realising this responsibility and upholding their faith is a challenge they should not shy away from.”
The vision and mission
Need to recognise Gastroenteritis as lifestyle disease
Among India’s population, 30 per cent suffer from gastro-related ailments, while only 15 per cent are affected with diabetes. For 1.2 billion population we just have 1000 qualified Gastroenterologists in the country. Lack of clean drinking water and sanitation in our country is one of the main concerns.
We have discovered a way where we can convert skin cells into liver cells. A biopsy of skin is taken and grown into liver cells in a test tube. From one skin cell we can grow billions of liver cells in one week. By creating this artificial liver we no longer have to depend on liver transplant. Called IPS, a Japanese doctor invented this technique in 2012, and we have used that technology and modified into our situation. This technique will cost just one tenth of the cost of the transplantation.
Coming together of medicine and engineering
We have developed Robotic Doctors with help from IIT Hyderabad. These robots will be docked in the wards of the hospitals in any city, and we can remote control him from our institute.
This technology is already available in the West and in the US market. But the doctors there didn’t want to promote it due to their self interest. Our robots here will be cheaper to manufacture and maintain as well.
Reaching out to rural patients
For all the advancements we have made, a majority of the population does not have access to modern medical facilities. Unfortunately many of the cases in rural areas are gastro cases. So we have a scheme where mobile vans camp in villages and undertake medical treatment. At our institute 20 percent of the medical care is free. If every hospital and establishment thinks this way we can cover a large part of the country’s medical problems. A lot of NGOs are involved in this mission. All that government needs to do is set up a monitoring agency.
Goals get bigger and better
The new institute that’s coming up in a seven-acre land in Gachibowli will be the best Gastroenterology hospital in the world. It will have the best research and academy facility, a Minimally Invasive Technology Training centre and an Innovation Centre where young scientists and researchers will get to innovate modern methods and techniques in medicine.
This institute is looking into the succession line. We are training next generation doctors and hopefully in the next five years I can handover responsibilities and slow down.
Keywords: Dr. Nageshwar Reddy; Dr. Carol Ann Reddy; Padma Bhushan; Asian Institute of Gastroentrology