Dr B C Roy National Awards for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 have been announced. We will bring their profile one by one.
Part 1: Dr. K.K Aggarwal in conversation with Dr. Neelam Mohan, Pediatric Gastroenterologist on receiving the BC Roy National Award
- How does it feel being conferred one of the most prestigious awards in the medical field?
It’s like asking an actor getting an Oscar award or film fare award; it’s really a lovely feeling. You feel good that all hard work and efforts are appreciated.
- What was your motivation to choose an unconventional career like liver transplant, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the 90’s?
I was keen to pursue a career in medicine that was new, different and unique. After obtaining my Post-Graduation in Pediatrics, I shortlisted three choices – Cardiology, Gastroenterology and Genetics. Cardiology was a field everyone seemed to be opting for and Genetics though an exciting field, did not involve a high degree of patient interaction. I finally opted for Gastroenterology. I was fascinated by the liver as an organ and given the lack of awareness that existed about liver diseases in the 90’s, I truly believed that I could help make a difference in the field and help save lives. I was also deeply inclined towards understanding endoscopic procedures that were beyond the purview of surgeons.
- What were the early challenges faced by you in your career and how did you manage to overcome them?
During the 90s, there was no training program in pediatric gastroenterology in India. At best, AIIMS did good work in that field then. I worked there for more than a year. Subsequently I decided to leave for UK to learn from the masters in that domain.
Between 1997 and 1999, I obtained specialized training in Pediatric gastroenterology and liver transplantation at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I vividly remember one of my senior colleagues telling me “No body dies of hard work”. I made this my motto and did double shifts as a ‘Clinical fellow’ during the day from 8 to 5pm and ‘Research fellow’ from 5:30 to 10:30 pm.
I returned to India in 1999 as an expert of liver transplants, pediatric liver and GI diseases. Finding a job was an arduous task then as no one was interested in my precise domain. But, I stood by my resolve, as I knew that the time had arrived to establish the field of gastroenterology and liver in the country. Luck was by my side, and finally, my relentless pursuit paid off when I got my first break at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital (SGRH), thanks to the vision of Dr S.C. Arya (Pediatrician) and Dr. S.K Sama (Chairman SGRH).
I worked at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital for over a decade and was given the opportunity to live by dream of advancing endoscopic procedures for the betterment of health care in India. I became the first doctor in the country to initiate endoscopic procedures in newborn babies. I worked not only in diagnostic but also in therapeutic endoscopy. All these tremendously boosted my confidence and morale.
- You have taken many pioneering initiatives that have brought India at the global forefront in this domain. Please illuminate?
I humbly say that I created India’s first unit of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Liver Transplantation division at Medanta – The Medicity under support of Dr. Naresh Trehan (Chairman & Managing Director, Medanta –The Medicity) & visionary in medical field. I became a part of a horizontal expansion, and we expanded into various verticals besides liver transplantation and liver/ GI diseases such as motility, endoscopy, capsule endoscopy, manometry and diagnostic and curative work, making it the first such department in the country that provides comprehensive A to Z facilities for newborns, children and adolescents with Gastrointestinal and Liver Diseases including the highest level of liver care that is Liver Transplantation. Today we have more than 200 successful pediatric liver transplants in India and we can claim to be at par with America and UK, for results if not better.
After being credited to be India’s first doctor to initiate curative Endoscopy in newborns and young infants, I consider myself fortunate to have given several other firsts in India and world in the field of Liver Transplantation, such as
- World’s first living related liver transplant in a baby with factor VII deficiency (2010)
- World’s youngest domino liver transplant (2009)
- South Asia’s first successful combined liver and kidney transplant from two live donors (2007)
- India’s first youngest liver transplant in 3 month old baby.(2015)
- India’s first living related liver transplant which cures a baby with Citrullinemia (2013)
- India’s first ABO-incompatible liver transplant in a child (2012)
- India’s first Robotic donor hepatectomy in liver transplant in a child (2011)
- India’s first Swap liver transplantation (2009)
- India’s first Bloodless liver transplant (2006)
- India’s first Successful survival of liver transplant in a fulminant liver failure (2004)
- India’s first Successful pediatric cadaveric reduced liver transplant (2003)
- India’s first successful Liver Transplantation in patient with both liver and lung failure due to Hepatopulmonary syndrome (2016)
In the last decade my services to the medical profession and the community have been recognized at both National and International level and this has been quite a humbling experience for me. I have been honored with prestigious awards and accolades such as FIAP award by Indian Academy of Pediatrics and FACG by American College of Gastroenterology, SGRH Alumni Award. I have been appreciated by the medical fraternity and received the “DMA Centenary Award - 2014” given by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for my contribution in the field of child health, “ZEE Swastha Bharat Samman Award” in 2012 by the former Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. Besides these, I have been honored with the Distinguished Service Award by Indian Medical Association, and Eminent doctor of the year Award by eMedinews amongst various others.
- What advice you give to youngsters?
Passion, dedication and personal attention are the keys to success.