Follow your heart ... Realize your dream
Dr KK Aggarwal, Editor in Chief eMedinewS and IMA News in conversation with Dr HS Bhanushali, Consultant General & Thoracic Surgeon, Thane.
Dr HS Bhanushali has been honored with Dr BC Roy National Award for the year 2009 under the category of ‘Best Talents in encouraging the development of Specialties in different branches of Medicine’.
How does it feel being conferred one of the most prestigious awards in the medical field?
I feel extremely delighted and at the same time humbled to have received this prestigious award. I am grateful to the President and Members of the award committee to have selected me for this award.
Tell us about your journey so far.
I was born in a small hamlet in Shahapur Taluka, Thane district in a poor family. As there was no secondary education available in my village, at the age of 12, I left home to join school at Shahapur 16 miles away. Every day, I had to cross a river just to be able to get to my school.
In those days patients from in and around my village had to travel to the big cities for medical treatment. Looking at their plight, I decided to become a doctor and dedicate my life to serving the underprivileged. When I completed MS, I was offered prestigious jobs in India as well as abroad. But I was determined to offer my services in an area where medical facilities were not readily available. I renounced all the lucrative offers coming my way and started practice at a small rental place in Thane. Eventually I built a 25-bedded private hospital in Thane. It was one of the first hospitals in Thane. We had patients coming in from all the surrounding villages for treatment.
It has always been my mission to make quality treatment available to all. With that I mind I developed the “Kaushalya Medical Foundation Trust Hospital” in Thane, in 2002. It is a 110-bed hospital with over 150 consultants and a state of the art technology which caters to the working class population of Thane. It was my dream to make medical treatment available at affordable costs to all strata of society and to achieve it, I spent my life’s savings in constructing this Hospital.
What were the early challenges faced by you in your career? How did you manage to overcome them?
When I started my practice in the 60s, health awareness was practically zero in the rural areas. To increase health awareness and for early diagnosis, I used to travel to the rural areas every weekend and conduct health camps, providing free check-up, for years together. During these camps I realized that tuberculosis was a looming problem, which was widespread and severely affected the quality of life of the patients. The lack of knowledge and awareness regarding TB and the social stigma associated with the disease also compelled me to work towards tackling the problem of TB. In 1968, I formed the “Thane District TB Association.” From 1968 -1975, I covered the whole of Thane district and arranged TB, BCG and medical check-up camps every weekend. I examined approximately 4-5 thousand patients each week, took mass mini X-rays and administered BCG vaccines to small children. Nearly 3.5 lakh kids were administered BCG vaccine during these camps. These camps were not only aimed at treating patients but also trying to increase the awareness about TB.
The TB patients, who required surgery, were admitted to either MT Agarwal (Mulund) or Sewree TB Hospital, both Municipal run and I used to perform surgery on them, free of cost. From 1966-1993,I performed over 4600 chest surgeries for Pulmonary Tuberculosis and nearly 12000 general surgery operations in municipal general hospital.
At that time I also realized that the resources for learning advanced surgical techniques in India were limited. So I went abroad, mastered advanced techniques like highly selective vagotomy and thoracoscopic surgery and brought them back to treat our ailing population.
Tell us about your family. How important has been the role of family in your journey?
My wife Dr Mrs Asha Bhanushali, a gynecologist by profession has been my biggest pillar of strength in my professional as well as personal life. She has played various roles over the years from being a good surgical assistant during my initial practice, to an excellent gynecologist, an able hospital administrator to a wonderful working mother. I could chase my dreams because she took care of things around me. My son Dr Amol has continued in my chosen field and has taken it to the next level of Advanced Thoracoscopic surgery.
What would be your message to the community?
Have patience, tolerance and faith in the medical system. Early diagnosis is critical, so do not procrastinate and consult a doctor at the right time. Also, the community needs to bring back the change in relationship from doctor-consumer to doctor-patient.
Given a chance, what changes would you like to bring about in health policies.
Standardization of quality of healthcare and indirectly that of medical education is the need of the hour. I would also like to see a larger number of well-structured screening programs being implemented for e.g. a better program for awareness, detection and treatment of TB, especially DRTB. Lastly, the medical insurance system should be more patient-friendly as well as hospital-friendly.
What advice would you give to youngsters?
My advice would be to follow your heart. If you have a dream, set no stone unturned to realize it. Be committed to your profession and have good work ethics; name, fame and money will follow.